According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one person was killed, and other two fell ill after they contracted a rare disease called Leptospirosis. This illness is commonly spread via rat urine, in particular.

The state agency stated this Wednesday that they had reported a cluster of three cases of the disease in one specific area in New York. The Grand Concourse neighborhood in the Bronx is the place were all the persons infected with Leptospirosis contracted the illness. Back in December, two individuals were reported of having the disease, while the other case was presented in early February.

Health Building New York. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Image Credit: Wikimapia

The official statements explained that Leptospirosis is a rare disease that can be transmitted through contact with rat urine and is rarely spread from person to person. However, even when this condition is serious, “is treatable with readily available antibiotics.”

The odd fact of the matter is that Leptospirosis is not a common disease within New York City. According to the registers, there are between 1 to 3 cases of the illness reported every year, as officials have said that “human leptospirosis cases are very rare in New York City; this is the first time a cluster of cases has been identified.”

According to the New York Times, between 2006 and 2016, there were only 26 known cases of Leptospirosis in New York, as 8 of those cases, 30 percent of them, were registered in the Bronx. In the cases of 2017, the three patients presented an “acute kidney and liver failure” as they were hospitalized immediately for medical treatment. However, two of those patients are now out of the hospital.

In the 26 cases reported in the past decade, only one woman suffered from the disease. According to the state’s health agency, this infection can spread through the contact of rat urine with eyes, mouth, wounds or cuts.

The state government has indicated that they are working to reduce all the rat populations present in distinct New York areas, as they are trying to educate citizens about the disease’s symptoms and possible treatments.

Image Credit: Yahoo News

No need for panic

At a special press conference held this Wednesday, the Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr., called for people to stay calm as asked New Yorkers not to overreact to the recent events.

“There’s no need for panic at this moment,” Dias Jr. said. “We have been in contact with the elected officials in the area, we’ve been in contact with the city. There’s going to be some more education. I think that what we need to do now is educate the public on exactly what it is that leptospirosis is. This is, ladies and gentlemen, an issue that’s a quality-of-life issue, it’s a health issue. And unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the last couple days, it’s a life-and-death issue.”

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene official statement, they suggest people to avoid any contact with rats or areas where rats could have urinated. In case anyone has had contact with rats, the agency recommends washing hands with soap and water to avoid the infection.

Diaz appointed the fact that for many years the city has tried to get rid of rat population and issued the need for it as soon as possible.

“It is unfathomable to me that in this day and age, in one of the most expensive cities in the world and at our most technologically advanced point as a civilization, the city cannot mitigate the rat problem nor does it have good ideas to do so,” Diaz said in the official press conference.

Leptospirosis. Image Credit: RichMoore

What to know about Leptospirosis?

This rare disease is produced by a spiral-shaped bacterium known as Leptospira, as the infection can affect both humans and animals in general. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when people is present in an environment with a considerable presence of infected animal’s urine, there is a good chance of contracting the illness. Therefore, they explained how people in several areas of New York City are in danger of being affected, as there are many places in the state infested with rats.

This disease is not very common in the United States. There are about 150 cases reported every year, 50 percent of them in Hawaii. About the symptoms, in many cases, the disease does not manifest until it is severe. However, patients can present fever, vomiting or diarrhea due to liver complications.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has said that this illness can be treated with antibiotics like doxycycline or penicillin, as they stated that each treatment should begin as early as possible to avoid complications. In this matter, the health agency recommends people to wear protective clothing and footwear if they think they could be exposed to contaminated areas.

Source: The Washington Post