Infection caused by rat urine kills 1, sickens 2 others

BRONX, New York -- There are three cases of a bacterial infection caused by rat urine, one of them fatal, in the Bronx according to city officials.

According to the Borough President's Office, it is are monitoring the situation and in touch with the Health Department.

Two patients were diagnosed in December and one in February. Two of the patients recovered while one has died.

The Health Department released a statement saying, "The Health Department has identified a cluster of three cases of leptospirosis on one block in the Concourse area of the Bronx. 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 statement went on to say that while the illness is serious it is usually treatable with antibiotics.

In the meantime, the Housing Preservation and Development and the Buildings Departments have immediately begun reducing the rat population in the area. They also are working to educate tenants about "precautions, signs, and treatment."
You can catch leptospirosis bacteria 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 a mild illness with fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea. Rarely, infected persons may develop a life-threatening illness that affects their kidneys and liver.

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

Leptospirosis Precautions:
- 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.

The CDC says that without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress and death.

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