PEOPLE who live or work on farms in North Yorkshire are being asked to take part in a special study by the Health Protection Agency.

The agency wants to assess more accurately how often a disease called hantavirus occurs in people in England.

Hantaviruses are a group of more than forty rodent-borne viruses which are globally widespread in the environment.

The virus can only be passed to humans through direct contact with rodents or material contaminated with rodent waste.

In most cases, prolonged exposure to rodents carrying the virus is needed for it to be transmitted to people and currently cases of the disease are rarely confirmed in England.

The risk to people in this country from hantavirus is low, but scientists and health experts at the Health Protection Agency say that further research is needed to understand more accurately how widespread the disease actually is.

The director of the North Yorkshire Health Protection Unit, Dr Autilia Newton, said: “We are working closely with our partners including the local NHS, the National Farmers’ Union and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair to assist our expert scientists in investigating the prevalence of this disease through this study.”

To register an interest in taking part e-mail