US & Canada

Leptospirosis kills one and strikes two others in New York

rats Image copyright iStock
Image caption Rats are a common sight in New York City, but disease outbreaks are rare

One person has died and two others have been stricken by an outbreak of leptospirosis - a rare bacterial infection commonly spread by rat urine.

New York City health officials have identified the cases - all on one city block in the Bronx.

Each of the three patients was admitted to hospital severely ill with acute kidney and liver failure.

City officials say the cases, occurring in the past two months, are the first such concentrated cluster.

"This illness can be serious but is treatable with readily available antibiotics," said the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Image copyright iStock

One patient died from the infection, but the other two survived and have been released from hospital.

From 2006-16, 26 cases of leptospirosis were reported in the city, the New York Times reports.

All but one of the victims were men.

During the same period, the Bronx saw the highest number of cases with eight in total.

Officials have taken "immediate measures" to reduce the rat population in the area and are seeking to educate nearby tenants about safety precautions.

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.

Symptoms include fever, nausea, muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

City residents are advised to avoid rat-prone areas, and to always wear shoes while taking rubbish to their apartment building's refuse compactor room.

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