Bacterial infection linked to rat urine in NYC

Fox 5 NY – by Luke Funk

– A cluster of cases of a rare bacterial infection that is spread by contact with rat urine has killed one person and sickened two others in the Bronx.

The New York City Health Department says all of the cases are linked to one block in the Concourse area of the borough.  While one person has died, the other two have recovered and are doing well, according to health officials.  

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

The illness can be serious but is treatable with readily available antibiotics.  Two patients in the outbreak were diagnosed in December and one in February.

The Health Department says it is taking immediate measures to reduce the rat population in the area.  It says it is also trying to educate people who live in the area about precautions, signs, and treatment.

Officials say that none of the victims were bitten by rats.  The bacteria enter the body through open wounds and cuts in the skin or through the eyes, nose or mouth.

Leptospirosis is considered extremely rare in the city.  There are typically one to three cases a year.

Health officials warn to avoid contact with rats or with places where rats may have urinated.  They also recommend washing hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with areas where rats may live.

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