Rare Bacteria Found in Rat Urine Sickens Three Bronx Residents, One Fatally
City health officials are monitoring an outbreak of a rare bacterial infection in the Bronx.
The city says three people were infected in the Concourse neighborhood.
One person died, but the other two recovered.
Two of the patients were diagnosed in December, the third in February.
The city says there are typically one to three cases of leptospirosis in New York City per year, and that this is the first cluster of cases ever identified in the city.
Leptospirosis spreads from contact with rat urine.
The Health Department is holding a tenants meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at 750 Grand Concourse, where one of the patients lived, to address the outbreak.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development says there are 79 open violations at the building, and the Department of Buildings says there are 25 open construction code violations on record for the building.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. says 1,500 complaints have been filed against the landlord of the building, where one of the victims lived.
"I think that what we need to do is hold them accountable, in the courts, I think that we should find a way to protect the residents, where they can put even rent in escrow, and hit them in the pockets. Fine them even more," Diaz Jr. said.
"Every time I walk around, at night, they come out the most. So yeah, they're big," said one tenant.
"I'm really kinda upset, because with the urine this doesn't happen overnight. It's been a while. Somebody's at fault," said another tenant.
The Health Department urges people to avoid rats and wash thoroughly if you do come in contact with them.
Spreading Leptospirosis is not as easy as one might think.
Even though rats are quite present in the city, contracting the disease is actually very rare.
It's a bacterial infection that's more common among people who work with animals, farm workers or in slaughter houses - not your average New Yorker.
While the infection is serious, and as we now know, can cause death, it is treatable with antibiotics.
Symptoms of a leptospirosis infection are similar to symptoms of other infections and diseases. They include chills, muscle aches, abdominal pain.
If you have a high fever, a rash, red eyes, headache, or are vomitting, go get medical help.
If symptoms go away and return it's usually more severe and could possibly lead to kidney or liver failure - a condition called Weil's Disease.
Officials say use rubber gloves, boots and eyewear while cleaning up areas where rats have been seen.
Preventing a leptospirosis infection is as simple as washing your hands throroughly with soap and water if you come in contact with animal urine or any urine for that matter.
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