1 Dead, 2 Sickened in Disease Linked to Rat Urine: NYC Health Officials

A New York City resident has died of a bacterial disease commonly spread by contact with rat urine, and two more were recently diagnosed with the disease, city health officials say. 

The cluster of leptospirosis infections has been identified on the 700 block of Grand Concourse in the Bronx, officials say. The health department is working with the housing preservation and the building departments to reduce the rat population there and is in touch with tenants there. 

"This illness can be serious but it treatable with readily available antibiotics," the health department said in a statement, noting that it's very rarely spread from person to person.

Two patients in the Bronx cluster were diagnosed in December, and one in February. One of them has died, while the other two have recovered.

There are typically one to three cases of leptospirosis every year in New York City, health officials say. 

In cases of leptospirosis, bacteria enter the body through open wounds and cuts in the skin, or the eyes, nose or mouth. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms, while others may have mild illness with fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea. 

Rarely, infected people may develop a life-threatening illness that affects their kidneys and liver. 

Officials say precautions against the disease include avoiding contact with rats or with places where rats may have urinated, and washing 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, use a bleach solution to kill the bacteria in the aea, and protect yourself from contact with rat urine by using rubber gloves, boots, masks and some type of eyewear. 

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