Pest controllers asked to take part in PHE hantavirus study

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Hantavirus can be a very unpleasant disease and pest controllers may be a group at risk. Public Health England (PHE) is conducting a UK-wide study to determine the possible risk of infection to humans and needs volunteers at PestTech 2013 to assist them.

Hantaviruses are a group of viruses that are normally carried by rodents, such as rats, mice and voles. They are present throughout the world with different countries having different types infecting their local rodents.

In humans they can cause a range of diseases, ranging from mild, flu-like illness to severe disease affecting the lungs or kidneys. Rats are often infected in other countries and recent tests show that some rats may now be infected in the UK.

Public Heath England (PHE) is to carry out a study to determine the risk of exposure to hantavirus infection in those groups who have close contact with wild and domesticated rats in England.

The results of this study will inform public health advice and risk assessment for those who are at risk of exposure. One of the groups identified for inclusion in the study are those with occupational exposure to rats and specifically within this, pest control workers.

The research team is attending PestTech 2013 and would like you to volunteer to take part. Members of the team will be stationed near the delegate registration area and they will be able to tell you what is involved and answer any questions. So, please make yourself known to one of them.

The procedure is simple
You will be asked to read and sign a consent form, then a trained nurse will take a small blood sample (10 ml) and you will be asked to complete a short questionnaire. This will be carried out in the Ward room from 09.00 until 16.00.

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Blood test
It”s a simple procedure so, go on, get involved in something good

The NPTA executive board is getting the ball rolling as they are all having samples of their blood taken first thing.

In addition, Jackie Duggan, Principal Scientist Special Initiatives, from PHE will be detailing the objectives behind this study and what it hopes to achieve in a workshop presentation. She will explain how at risk practical pest controllers are and how significant their participation is to the study.

Come along and find out all about it at 10.00 in the Crows Nest suite.

Hantavirus can be passed to humans through the rodents” urine, faeces or saliva. When fresh rodent urine, droppings, or nesting materials are stirred up, tiny droplets containing the virus get into the air.

This process is known as ‘airborne transmission’.

There are several other ways rodents may spread hantavirus to people:

  • If a rodent with the virus bites someone, the virus may be spread to that person, but this type of transmission is rare;
  • Researchers believe that people may be able to get the virus if they touch something that has been contaminated with rodent urine, droppings, or saliva, and then touch their nose or mouth;
  • Researchers also suspect people can become sick if they eat food contaminated by urine, droppings, or saliva from an infected rodent.

Owners of pet rats may also be at risk, and they too, are forming part of this PHE study. A pet rat owner in South Wales recently contracted the disease.

So, for practical pest controllers, this is not a virus to take lightly.

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