Rare Bacterial Infection Kills One, Sickens Two In Bronx

The New York City Health Department says all of the cases are linked to one block in the Concourse area of the borough. City officials say it's the first time a cluster of cases has been identified.

One of the infected residents, a 43-year-old man, has been treated with antibiotics and is now recovering.

Infections commonly occur through exposure to rat urine. The statement went on to say that while the illness is serious it is usually treatable with antibiotics. "Two cases developed pulmonary hemorrhage and one died as a result of infection".

According to the Department of Health, between one and three cases of leptospirosis were reported in New York City each year since 2006.

According to the local Health Department, two patients were diagnosed with leptospirosis in December, and another one in February.

All but one of the victims were men. While it is rarely spread through person-to-person contact, it can prove fatal if not immediately treated.


Normally the entire city sees just one to three cases in a year, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Despite those precautions, residents said staying away from areas where rats live is out of their control, considering the huge populations of rats in the city.

Leptospriosis (also called Weil's disease) is spread through rat or animal fluids, and can enter the human body through small cuts in the skin or through the eyes, nose and mouth. Some people who are infected may not develop symptoms, while others may have a mild illness with fever, headache chills, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Health officials warn to 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. You can find more official information on leptospirosis here. The Health Department says it is working with the Housing Preservation and Development and Buildings Departments to mitigate rodent infestations in the area.

  • Santos West