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Deadly hantavirus found in UK

11th January 2013

A potentially deadly disease carried by rats has been found in the UK.

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Rats carrying hantavirus - which causes haemorrhagic fever in humans - are thought to have arrived in Yorkshire and the Humber on trade ships from Asia.

Scientists have confirmed that a man in North Yorkshire was diagnosed with the disease and suffered kidney problems, though has since recovered.

Health experts trapped a number of rats at his farm and house which were later found to be carrying the same strain of the disease.

The Health Protection Agency said further research was now needed to establish how wide ranging hantavirus has become in the UK.

The disease can be contracted by breathing in dust from rodent droppings or urine and campers, though it cannot be transmitted from person to person. Several people died following an outbreak in Yosemite National Park in America.

Lisa Jameson, from HPA’s the Virology and Pathogenesis Department, warned that while very few cases of Hantavirus had been confirmed in the UK, it was possible that more cases had occurred than had yet been reported.

She said: “In the past 30 years, there have been around 40 cases of Hantavirus confirmed in the UK – the majority of these were linked to an outbreak in Somerset in 1992.

“Although there is currently no indication that this virus is becoming significantly more prevalent in the UK, we are carrying out further investigations into this recent case to help us more accurately ascertain the prevalence of the virus in this country.”

 

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