‘They Run Around Rampantly’: Rare Disease Spread By Rat Urine Infects 3, Killing 1, In The Bronx – CBS Local

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — City health officials are trying to make sure no one else gets infected after one person died and two others were sickened by a rare disease spread by rats in the Bronx.

The Health Department said two patients were diagnosed with leptospirosis, a bacterial infection most commonly spread by contact with rat urine, in December and one in February, all three living within a one block radius in the Concourse area.

One of the patients, a 43-year-old Bronx man, told CBS2 in Spanish he’s feeling better, but still recovering with antibiotics.

Other residents like Florence Howard say the infestation in their building and in their neighborhood has been a problem for years.

“They run from underneath your stove, your refrigerator,” she said. “My apartment is very clean but it just doesn’t matter. There’s just holes where they find their way in.”

Representatives from the city’s health department were stationed in the lobby of 750 Grand Concourse Tuesday night, where they handed out notices to tenants warning them of the cluster of cases.

Health officials say there are typically one to three cases of the illness in New York City each year. The bacteria enters the skins through open wounds and cuts or through contact with the eyes, nose or mouth.

While some people may not show any symptoms, others may get sick with a fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea. Experts say in rare cases, patients may develop life-threatening reactions that can affect the kidney or liver.

“Everything I wash, I have to use bleach because they run around rampantly like they’re part of your house,” Howard said.

Residents of the building point to the many boarded walls and and doors, saying there is only so much they can do.

“There’s a lack of concern about the building, there’s a lack of concern with the super and the landlord,” Howard said.

The Health Department said they are trying to reduce the rat problem in the building and said there are precautions residents can take:

  • Avoid contact with rats or with places where rats may have urinated.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with areas where rats may live.
  • If you cannot avoid areas where rats have been seen, or are cleaning areas where rats have been, use a solution of one part household bleach and 10 parts water to kill the leptospirosis bacteria.
  • Protect yourself from contact with their urine: wear rubber gloves (especially if you have any cuts or sores on your hands or arms), boots, masks and some type of eyewear.

Health officials are holding a meeting for tenants of the building on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby.

‘They Run Around Rampantly’: Rare Disease Spread By Rat Urine Infects 3, Killing 1, In The Bronx – CBS Local

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