DOH offers tips, information on leptospirosis

The recent cluster of leptospirosis in the Melrose section of the Bronx has many in the area and across the city wondering what exactly the disease is and why they might not have heard of it.

Leptospirosis is a rare disease with very few cases reported each year in the five boroughs. According to the city's Health Department, all of New York City only sees one to three cases a year, with three recent cases coming out of the Bronx -- two in December and one in February. One of the cases was fatal.

So what exactly is leptospirosis? It's a bacterial disease spread by animal urine. But in the most recent cases, rats have been the culprit. The DOH tells News 12 that the bacteria can enter the body through open wounds such as cuts in the skin, or through the eyes, nose or mouth.

Symptoms, if present, can include fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and, in extreme cases, developing a life-threatening illness that affects the kidneys and liver.

The DOH has shared some tips on how to protect yourself from leptospirosis in humans. It says people should avoid contact with rats or places they may have urinated. They also advise people to wash hands thoroughly if they have been in contact where rats may dwell. Rat urine should be cleaned up using bleach and water to kill the bacteria. People should also protect themselves while cleaning and make sure to wear rubber gloves, boots, masks and eyewear.

It is important to note that the disease is rarely spread from person to person, so it is important to talk with your veterinarian to get pets vaccinated for leptospirosis.

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