Rare rat-related disease shows up in New York City

Cathy QuinnFeb 16 , 2017

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is most commonly spread by contact with rat urine and is very rarely spread from person to person.

New York Health Department officials gave the reported rat-infested apartment location a vacate order for the basement apartments for health and safety concerns.

A New York City resident died, and two other residents were in critical medical condition after contracting leptospirosis, a rare bacterial disease that was traced back to rats living in the area.

"This is the first time a cluster of cases has been identified", he continued.

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A 43-year-old man was one of the infected residents. The median age of affected persons was 42, and all but one of them were male. Two of the patients were diagnosed with the illness in December, and one was diagnosed in February.

The New York City Health Department says all of the cases are linked to one block in the Concourse area of the borough.

Health officials said they are now trying to address the problem, and will be holding a meeting for tenants to solve it. The statement went on to say that while the illness is serious it is usually treatable with antibiotics. Treatment should begin as early as possible to reduce the severity and duration of the disease, the DOHMH said.

A total of 26 cases of leptospirosis were documented in New York City between 2006 and 2016, according to the New York Post.

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The Health Department urges people to avoid rats and wash thoroughly if you do come in contact with them.

Leptospriosis (also called Weil's disease) is spread through rat or animal fluids, and can enter the human body through small cuts in the skin or through the eyes, nose and mouth.

"Symptoms can range from a mild illness with fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea, to a life-threatening sickness that affects the kidneys and liver", health officials said. If someone comes in contact with areas where rats might live, the department suggests washing hands with soap and water afterward.

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