Camper contracts Q virus after being bitten by tick

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tick bite at campsite in queensland
Far North Queensland hospitals have seen an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for tick bites. PIC: Stephen Axford / ABC

A woman has been diagnosed with a dangerous disease after being bitten by a tick while camping at a popular camping spot in north Queensland.

Maria Messmer was camping near Tinaroo Dam, west of Cairns, several weeks ago when she noticed a tick had burrowed into the skin behind her ear.

She told the ABC that she removed the tick and didn’t think too much more about it.

“And about two and half weeks later I got really, really sick, very quickly,” Ms Messmer said. “I had a crushing headache, a high fever, I simply couldn’t move … it was like a really bad flu and the night sweats, I was drenched.”

As her condition deteriorated, Ms Messmer was admitted to Cairns Hospital’s emergency department, and later diagnosed with Q fever, a serious bacterial illness.

The health authorities told her the tick was probably carrying the disease from a wallaby or bandicoot in the camping area, which had probably picked it up from livestock.

“I was on antibiotics for about two weeks after I left hospital,” Ms Messmer said. “I’m still having blood tests to check my liver function and heart condition.”

Cairns Hospital and Health Service executive director of medical services, Dr Don Mackie, told the ABC that it was the first time he had heard of someone contracting Q fever through a tick bite.

He said while tick bites were often harmless, they could cause an allergic reaction in some people.

“You may not feel a tick until a couple of days later, so it’s really important to check yourself, ” Dr Mackie said. “Ticks like warm areas of the body and are often found at the back of the head and neck, groin, armpits, and backs of knees.”

He recommended people kill ticks through the use of a permethrin cream or a cold spray before removing the insect, in order to reduce the chance of a reaction.

The ABC reports that , last year, 330 people were treated across all Queensland emergency departments after coming into contact with a tick.

  • Do you check for ticks when you are out camping in the bush? Have you ever had a bad reaction to a bite? Comment below.
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3 Responses to Camper contracts Q virus after being bitten by tick

  1. My husband contracted Tick Typhus from a tick in the Mallacoota area of Victoria. Also known as spotted fever. We were lucky that the local doctor knew of the disease but was extremely rare for the area. The disease also comes from wallaby’s. Our e day stay ended up being 3 weeks as my husband was so sick. He had a to have prolonged antibiotics specific to the disease. Even once home it took him a number of months to fully recover. Apparently people use to die from Tick Typhus before a remedy was found.

  2. Id reckon its a mistaken diagnosis. More likely is was Queensland Tick Typhus (QTT)

  3. I caught Q fever from a tick in 2001, I showed minimal signs of the disease until I was bitten by a red back spider 2 months later. The spider bite played havoc with my immune system & in Jan 2002 I was diagnosed with Q fever, Ross river fever, Barmah forest fever & glandular fever, don’t take insect bites lightly as mosquitoes have been my biggest enemy with catching these diseases, I am also weary of tick bites as they spread equally as much as a mossie.

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