Q-FEVER - A HEALTH CONCERN IN MEAT INDUSTRY
The disease Q-fever is a major concern in NSW and Queensland - where nearly 90 percent of Australian cases occur. Each year approximately 600 cases of Q-fever are reported nationally, with an average of 200 people hospitalised and three deaths occurring as a result of the disease.
Each year more than 1,700 working hours are lost due to Q-fever with workers compensation costs estimated at around $1 million. Acute cases of Q-fever can cost between $7,000 and $50,000.
It is of concern that the number of cases was not decreasing, with most cases being adult males from NSW and southern Queensland. Most people infected by Q-fever recover after an acute flu like illness but up to 20% of cases may go on to develop a chronic debilitating illness marked by extreme fatigue. In a small number of cases serious cardiac and liver complications can occur.
The meat industry and WorkCover have been concerned for some time about the increasing rate of workers compensation claims for Q-fever and an associated illness Q-fever syndrome - a type of chronic fatigue syndrome.
WorkCover are working in conjunction with the meat industry to raise awareness of the disease with an internet register that encourages Q-fever vaccinations to reduce the incidence of the illness and its associated costs to our communities.
WorkCover's Consumer Manufacturing Industry Reference Group includes a sub-group representing the meat processing industry who initiated the register. Two members of the sub-group, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia, are funding the register. The sub-groups other members are the National Meat Association, The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union and three meat processor representatives.