New York City rats are big, ugly, and now apparently deadly. City health authorities are investigating three cases of poisoning by rat urine, one of them fatal, the New York Times reports. The victims of leptospirosis were all in the Bronx, the first such cluster of the rare disease reported in a city infamous for its robust rodents. The health department issued an alert on Tuesday following the death of a man in his 30s. Two of the bacterial infections occurred in December and one this month, per ABC7. All three people were hospitalized with acute kidney and liver failure, and two have recovered and been released. In the past 10 years, leptospirosis has sickened 26 people in the city, eight of them in the Bronx.
The outbreak prompted the health department to take steps to curb the garbage-trolling rodents and educate residents about the risk. Infections are usually spread when rat urine comes in contact with the eyes, nose, mouth, or through a cut in the skin. People were urged to avoid contact with rats, obviously, but also to clean rodent hot spots with a bleach solution while wearing gloves, boots, mask, and protective eyewear. At an apartment building where one of the three was sickened, residents on Wednesday sought help from the city in having a court-appointed representative take over operations from their landlord, reports DNA Info. "We stand with the tenants," said a statement from Mayor DeBlasio that cited "persistent problems" at the building. (Pet rats were blamed for an outbreak of this rare virus.)