Urging political unity on Q fever

The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria will push the Federal and Victorian governments to put politics aside and work together to immunise dairy farmers and their employees against Q fever.

A motion passed at the dairy group’s annual conference on Friday (12 May 2017) urged the Federal and Victorian governments to jointly fund a Victoria-wide program of pre-screening and vaccination clinics for rural communities aimed at battling the threat of the flu-like disease.

“We’re asking both governments to put families above politics and invest in vaccination clinics in regional towns to make it easier for people to get tested and immunised against Q fever, because it’s a serious disease that impacts our dairy communities,” UDV President Adam Jenkins said.

Q fever is carried by cattle, sheep and goats, and feral animals, and can be transmitted to humans. It poses the greatest risk to people working with livestock, such as farmers, abattoir workers, veterinarians and animal handlers.

Mr Jenkins said while reports of Q fever cases remained steady across the country, many doctors in rural areas were not trained to administer the vaccine, making the need for specialised vaccination clinics an issue that needed to be addressed.

“Around 600 cases of Q fever are reported in Australia every year, but there could be many more because a large number of cases go undetected,” he said.

“Q fever costs the agriculture industry 1700 weeks’ worth of productivity annually, which leads to millions of dollars in lost revenue across the supply chain, but these statistics could be slashed if the State and Federal Governments set up clinics to make vaccinations affordable and easy to access.

“Farmers want to do the right thing by their employees and families by getting them immunised against the disease, but a lot of them can’t because currently they don’t have easy access to the vaccine or trained professionals.”

The Q Vax vaccine used to prevent Q fever is 96-98 per cent effective when cases are vaccinated during the incubation period of natural infection, and 100 per cent effective when not, making the costs of vaccination a single expense of approximately $400.

Mr Jenkins said the UDV would lobby the Federal Government to list the vaccine on the federally funded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to give farmers an added incentive to vaccinate their workers.

The push by the UDV aligns with a campaign launched in mid-May 2017 by the VFF Livestock Group – including industry workshops, preparedness toolkits and advertising – that aims to promote awareness of the disease.