Scientists taking the "query" out of Q Fever

A team of scientists is seeking to unlock the secrets of Q Fever

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Q FEVER VACCINE: A Warrnambool abbatoir worker is vaccinated against Q Fever.

Q FEVER VACCINE: A Warrnambool abbatoir worker is vaccinated against Q Fever.

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Project aims to improve the understanding of how Q Fever spreads.

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Australian scientists and livestock managers are seeking to take the "query" out of Q Fever.

A Q Fever taskforce has been funded by the Federal Government's Department of Agriculture, AgriFutures Australia and university and industry partners.

It brings together PhD students, along with animal health and infectious disease experts from leading Australian universities, the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, Goat Vet Oz and Meredith Dairy.

The project aims to improve the understanding of how and why Q fever can spread, recognising its severe risk to human health.

The multidisciplinary three-year project will specifically look to understand Q fever reservoirs and amplification and transmission pathways on Australian livestock farms

It aims to better understand the factors influencing the risk of Q fever spread.

The investigators hope that will assist the development of national guidelines for an emergency response plan, to be used in the event of future Q fever outbreaks.

Q Fever Group Primary Investigator Professor Mark Stevenson, from the University of Melbourne, said the project was a necessary step to ensure Australia was better prepared to manage risks.

"Our biosecurity practices need to be aligned with the most up-to-date information on Q fever distribution (frequency and pattern) and determinants (cause and risk factors)," Prof Stevenson said.

"We have some of the highest rates of human infection of Q Fever in the world, and a combination of climatic conditions that favour disease spread.

'A growing livestock industry makes us susceptible to outbreaks."

He said by learning from historic outbreaks, as well as developing a better understanding of the way Q fever spreads, would give researchers the knowledge to better mitigate the risk of such outbreaks.

Project manager Dr Bonny Cumming, the University of Melbourne, highlighted the importance of communication and transparency for this project.

"Extending the project's findings to industry and the general public is critical to ensuring our research has tangible and practical benefits for those most impacted," Prof Cumming said.

"Connecting livestock workers with key information about best practices to improve hygiene and reduce risk of Q fever transmission is a critically important step to help ensure the health and safety of our agricultural industry.

"Our aim is to ensure that through communicating our research findings, farmers, abattoir workers and other members of the livestock industry will be equipped with the necessary knowledge and resources to better protect themselves and their families from Q fever and its potentially debilitating consequences."

Q fever is an infectious disease of humans and animals caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii.

In humans, Q fever infection can cause a prolonged, debilitating illness.

A small proportion of affected individuals develop ongoing, chronic syndromes that include pneumonia and inflammation of the inner chambers of the heart (endocarditis).

Intensively managed livestock are the primary sources of human infection in Australia. Sheep, goats and cattle can all provide conditions favourable for the amplification and spread of Q fever.

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