Via The New York Times: Rare Disease Strikes a Bronx Area All Too Familiar With Rats. Excerpt:
The rare disease goes by many names. Mud fever, sewerman’s flu, swamp fever — those are just a few of the monikers for the illness caused by the bacterium Leptospira.
As the names indicate, the disease is associated with filth, and in the developed world, it is exceedingly rare. But in the Grand Concourse neighborhood of the Bronx, where the conditions in some of the buildings have long been called unlivable by residents, the disease found its way into the vast rat population and has now been linked to a cluster of infections that have left one resident dead and two others severely ill.
The authorities ordered people living in eight illegal apartments in a subcellar at 750 Grand Concourse, one of the buildings where the infections occurred, to vacate the premises, and they have stepped up efforts to combat the rat population through extermination and better garbage management.
“I want to make clear that this is a very rare infection,” Dr. Mary Bassett, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said on Wednesday, calling the flare-up of leptospirosis cases a “cluster” on this one Bronx block, rather than an outbreak or an epidemic. “Since 2006, we’ve seen some 26 cases in New York City. The last data we have for the country as a whole suggests in 2015 there were fewer than 30 cases diagnosed across the whole country.”
The disease is caused by exposure to an infected animal’s urine, Dr. Bassett explained, not through bites or by touch or by watching a rat scurry across subway tracks. She urged anyone in the area with flulike symptoms to seek medical help. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.