THAT both the president and vice president of NSW Farmers have contracted two different forms of Q-fever goes some way to explaining the spread of the disease.
For vice president Chris Groves it was exactly 21 days after calving heifers, while he was drafting some lambs, his life changed.
Q-fever’s incubation time is 21 days.
“You’ve got to b pretty sick when you’d rather just die,” he said of the chronic form of the disease that took him almost three years to fully recover from.
NSW Farmers newly elected president James Jackson contracted the acute form of the disease.
One morning he found he could hardly get out of bed.
Thinking he’d shake it off he jumped in the shower and collapsed.
He went into septic shock, fell across the drain hole and almost drowned in the shower.
What followed was a week in intensive care and a month’s recovery, during which time he was on such a powerful regime of antibiotics he lost some of his hearing.
After about a month Mr Jackson had recovered, but Mr Groves was not so lucky, he suffered relapses of the debilitating disease for the next three years, recurring bouts of extreme tiredness.
Now the two men want a testing introduced across the state and the testing procedure made accessible through the national Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
“The testing is very expensive,” said Mr Jackson “and it can’t be considered just an occupational disease any more, it’s too widespread”.
Mr Groves says it is a community health risk and must be treated as such.
Conventional wisdom once had it that really only farmers and abattoir workers were at high risk of contracting the disease.
But the two men with personal experience of the disease say that’s folly and that it’s most likely concentrated in the foetal material of most animals.
“We’ve even heard of greenkeepers on golf courses contracting it from kangaroo dung,” said Mr Groves.
Australia is the only country in the world with a vaccine for the disease, but the United States Department of Defence is working on one, because soldiers returning from duty in the Middle East have a high rate of contraction.
But the vaccine itself can be fatal if you have already contracted the disease.
Testing for the disease involves a simple blood test, followed by a scratch skin test.
The scratch test can be dicey, at times throwing a false negative, then undergoing vaccination can present significant health risks.
At the Australian National Field Days at Borenore the two men spotted a breast cancer screening bus that travels the countryside offering free tests for women.
“That’s what we want,” said Mr Jackson, “a screening bus that can travel to regional areas and make it convenient for people to undergo testing.
“At the moment we’re being treated like second class citizens.”