The UDV have called on the state and federal governments to fund a Victoria-wide Q fever pre-screening and vaccination program in regional areas to ensure dairy farmers and their employees are immunised against the illness.
At the UDV’s annual conference on May 12, the group passed a motion calling on the Turnbull and Andrews governments to put politics aside and invest in the program.
‘‘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.
The move comes on the back of a new awareness campaign by the VFF Livestock Group which will include industry workshops, preparedness kits and advertising to raise awareness about the flu-like disease.
Rochester Veterinary Practice partner Keith Fletcher said although he had not encountered any cases of Q fever recently, he took the illness ‘‘very seriously’’.
‘‘It can be contracted from cattle, sheep and goats and also dogs, certainly we as vets get vaccinated for it and tested,’’ Dr Fletcher said.
‘‘It’s definitely a concern (that some people do not have access to the vaccination) ... Certainly those at risk such as farmers and abattoir workers need to be vaccinated.’’
About 600 cases of Q fever are reported every year, but Mr Jenkins said many more could be going undetected and the illness was damaging productivity in the industry.
‘‘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,’’ he said.
‘‘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 fever vaccination is 96 to 98 per cent effective if vaccinated during the incubation period of infection, and 100 per cent effective when administered while not infected.
Mr Jenkins said the UDV intended to lobby the Federal Government to list the vaccine on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to reduce cost and give farmers extra incentive to vaccinate their workers.
For those who are not yet vaccinated, Dr Fletcher said they should contact their local GP and get a blood test to determine whether they already have immunity, before seeking out a qualified health professional who can administer the one-off vaccination if needed.