The authors of a new study into the prevalence of Q fever have concluded all people living in rural Australia should consider getting vaccinated against the disease.
Their research findings were published in the Medical Journal of Australia and was based on 2740 blood samples from donors to the Red Cross in the NSW Hunter and New England region, Toowoomba in Queensland and Sydney and Brisbane.
The study, led by Associate Professor Heather Gidding from Sydney University, found 3.6 per cent of the samples had antibodies to the bacteria which causes Q fever.
Q fever is an infection caused by Coxiella burnetii, a bacterium usually related to contact with livestock although other animals including cats, dogs and kangaroos may carry the infection.
The bacteria pass into milk, urine and faeces of infected animals while large numbers of organisms are shed in the birth products.
Infection of humans usually occurs by inhalation of the bacteria on dust particles.
Contaminated clothing, wool, hides or straw may also be a source of infection.
Q fever has largely been seen as an occupational disease of meat workers, farmers, shearers and veterinarians.
But the new findings indicate everybody in rural Australia could be at potential risk.
Q fever can cause a severe flu-like illness in humans and in some cases can affect health and ability to work for many years.
The research found that only 40pc of the people now working in high-risk occupations had heard of the vaccine and only 10pc had been vaccinated.