New York reports record cases of leptospirosis


  • New York has recorded 15 cases of leptospirosis, and one death, in 2021. The rare disease comes from exposure to rats.
  • Three of the people infected were experiencing homelessness.
  • To help drive down the city’s rat problem, a volunteer group of dog-owners go rat hunting on Friday nights.

Rats have been terrorizing New Yorkers even more than usual this year, teaming up in clan warfare during the food-scarce days of strict Covid lockdowns and harassing sidewalk diners once the city began opening up.

And this year, more New Yorkers have been falling seriously ill from a rare but potentially fatal bacterial disease called leptospirosis, which is spread through exposure to rats, and specifically through contact with rat urine or contaminated water.

Last month, the city’s health department reported 14 cases of leptospirosis – an unusually high number since just New York has documented a total of 57 cases in the 15 years since 2006 – and alerted healthcare providers to be on the lookout for symptoms. Of the first 14 cases, 13 people were hospitalized with acute renal and hepatic failure, and one person died as a result of an infection, the alert said.

Last week, there was the 15th case. That person appears to have recovered, the health department told Insider.

The disease is treatable with antibiotics and some people won’t experience any symptoms, though one in ten cases progress to severe complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Every year, there are roughly 150 cases nationwide, according to the CDC, with most cases occurring in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

The last time leptospirosis made news in New York was in 2017, when a cluster in the Bronx landed three people in the emergency room – sparking a wave of media coverage and criticism of the city’s rat mitigation efforts.

A 46-year-old man who worked in a meat processing facility had been hospitalized for muscle pain and shortness of breath after cutting his hand at work. He eventually developed the first documented case of testicular swelling associated with leptospirosis.

The two others lived or worked on the same block where the first man worked. Of the three, two recovered and one person died, the city said at the time.

A few months later, New York issued a veterinary medical alert when dogs started falling ill, some of which were believed to have slurped contaminated water in standing puddles while taking walks during the unusually warm winter.

There are about 16 cases of canine leptospirosis a year in New York, according to a surveillance report. Canine cases do not predict where human cases will occur, and while canine to human transmission is possible, no case has ever been documented in New York.

Source: Yahoo! News

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