Rat-Borne Leptospirosis Infection Kills One in NYC

Leptospirosis spreads from contact with rat urine.

For the New York City cases, health officials suspect that the people became infected through contact with urine from rats, because most cases in New York City are linked with exposure to rats or rat-infested environments, the DOHMH said. The CDC says that without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress and death.

The three cases occurred in the last two months in a Bronx neighborhood.

The Health Department is holding a tenants meeting tonight to address the outbreak.

Two patients in the Bronx cluster were diagnosed in December, and one in February. Some infected people may have no symptoms at all. In the meantime, the Housing Preservation and Development and the Buildings Departments have immediately begun reducing the rat population in the area.

Although New York City typically gets one to three cases of leptospirosis every year, city officials said it's the first time a cluster of cases has been identified. The disease is rarely passed from human to human and can be treated with "readily available antibiotics", according to the department of health.

Diaz also said he frequently hears complaints about rodents and rats, and not just from those who live in the Bronx. The rare disease is leptospirosis, caused by a bacterium.

A total of 26 cases of leptospirosis were documented in New York City between 2006 and 2016, according to the New York Post. The bacteria can cause infection if they enter the body through eyes, nose, mouth or through open wounds or cuts in the skin. Commons symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

If you can not avoid areas where rats have been seen, use a bleach solution to kill the bacteria in the aea, and protect yourself from contact with rat urine by using rubber gloves, boots, masks and some type of eyewear.

  • Lila Blake