Rat-Spread Disease Caused by Urine Kills 1, Sickens 2, NYC Health Officials Say
03:49 GMT 21.10.2021 (Updated: 13:25 GMT 06.08.2022)
NYC suffers from the highest rate of rat infestation, making them the most common culprit for causing leptospirosis.
New York City is reporting an alarming increase in the number of people diagnosed with leptospirosis — a bacterial disease that is largely associated with exposure to rats.
In a late September advisory, New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that 14 cases of human leptospirosis had been identified this year, in all boroughs except Staten Island.
The number of cases reported to the city's health department was higher than any previous year.
Thirteen of the fourteen people were hospitalized with kidney and liver failure, and two suffered from severe pulmonary issues. One person died as a result of infection, while all of the hospitalized patients were treated and discharged.
“One person acquired their infection while traveling," the advisory stated. “Among the thirteen locally acquired cases, most cases had a clear history or risk factor which exposed them to an environment with a severe rat infestation. Three cases reported homelessness."
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can spread from animals to humans. It's caused by bacteria of the genus Leptospira and most cases occur through contact with the urine of an infected animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Infections can also occur through contaminated water, soil or food. Bacteria can enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth or an open wound.
Symptoms of leptospirosis tend to be flu-like and can be mistaken with many other health conditions — while some people do not experience any symptoms.
According to the CDC, if Leptospirosis goes untreated, it can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.
New York City public health officials are urging people to avoid places where rats may have urinated and to sanitize areas with bleach where rats may have been — as well as warning health care providers to be on the lookout for the disease.