New York City officials have warned about the spread of infectious diseases transmitted through contact with rat urine

leptospirosis and rat problem in New York

New York City health officials raised an alarm on the rise of bacteria diseases spread by rat urine transmitted after 24 cases were reported in 2023, the highest in any year.

However, only six cases of leptospirosis have been recorded in the city this year though the numbers are rising, as per the New York City Department of Health (DOH) reports.

The New York cases are mostly linked to rats known as the Norway rat which transfers the diseases through urine.

The disease can present with fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, conjunctival suffusion, jaundice, and rash, Celia Quinn, the deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control, noted in a memo on April 12 warning about the disease.

She added that untreated, kidney failure, meningitis, liver damage, and respiratory distress may ensue.

The memo said that the number of cases in the Bronx was the highest with 37 from 2001 to 2023, and Manhattan had 28. During the same time, six cases of death were observed.

Person-to-person infection is an uncommon situation, officials said.

Over half of the 24 cases reported last year were reported between June and October, which was characterized by a wetter and warmer climatic condition with excessive rains and unseasonably warm days.

The amount of cases alarmed as from 2001 to 2020 only three per year were reported. Leptospirosis was reported 15 times between 2021 and 2023 in the city.

New York City is home to about 3 million rats according to a study by a pest company.

Last December, Mayor Eric Adams stated that the rat population was one of the reasons that pushed many New Yorkers out of the city.

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