Statement and Fact Sheet on Leptospirosis
February 15, 2017 – “The Health Department has identified a cluster of three cases of leptospirosis on one block in the Concourse area of the Bronx,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that is most commonly spread by contact with rat urine and is very rarely spread from person to person. This illness can be serious but is treatable with readily available antibiotics. The Health Department, in partnership with its sister agencies the Housing Preservation and Development and the Buildings Departments, has taken immediate measures to ensure the health and safety of residents by reducing the rat population in the area and is educating tenants about precautions, signs, and treatment.”
- Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread by animal urine, in this case by rats. It is extremely rare in New York City and it is rarely spread person to person. The disease is treatable with antibiotics.
- Leptospirosis bacteria enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth, or through wounds and cuts in the skin. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms, while others may have a mild illness with fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting or diarrhea. Rarely, infected persons may develop a life-threatening illness that affects their kidneys and liver.
Precautions to Take
- Avoid contact with rats or with places where rats may have urinated.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with areas where rats may live.
- If you cannot avoid areas where rats have been seen, or are cleaning areas where rats have been, use a solution of one part household bleach and 10 parts water to kill the leptospirosis bacteria.
- Protect yourself from contact with their urine: wear rubber gloves (especially if you have any cuts or sores on your hands or arms), boots, masks and some type of eyewear.
- Always wear shoes whenever taking trash to your trash compactor room.
- If members of the public believe they have been in contact with rats and are experiencing any of the aforementioned conditions, they should immediately contact their health care providers.
Leptospirosis Cluster in Concourse neighborhood of the Bronx
- There have been three reported cases of leptospirosis in the Concourse area of the Bronx, all three of which were diagnosed in the last two months and confined to one block.
- Two patients have recovered and one has died.
- There are typically one to three cases of leptospirosis per year in New York City. Prior to this cluster, there have been 26 cases since 2006, one of which resulted in a death.
- The cluster in the Concourse area is the first cluster (defined as cases occurring in same area and in a short period of time) of leptospirosis cases ever identified in New York City.
- The block is home to four schools – two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. All four schools have passed exterior pest control inspections and the Department of Education (DOE) has found no rodent signs in the schools.
- In December 2016, DOHMH issued multiple violations for ‘harborage’ conditions at 750 Grand Concourse (on both the exterior and interior of the building) and ordered the building’s landlord to immediately remediate the basement and affected apartments.
- On Monday, February 13, DOHMH confirmed the 3rd case of leptospirosis at 750 Grand Concourse and immediately started baiting the basement of the building. The two other cases occurred in persons who were not residents, but spent significant time on this block, but not in this building, and had exposure to rodent infested environments.
- Per HPD, there are 79 open violations at the building and one information order.
- Per DOB, there are 25 open construction code violations dating back to 2004.
What is the City doing for 750 Grand Concourse?
- On Tuesday, February 14, DOHMH issued a Health Alert to health care providers and informed tenants of the cluster at 750 Grand Concourse by distributing informational, bi-lingual English/Spanish letters. Protective rubber gloves were also provided to the residents.
- On Tuesday, February 14, DOHMH briefed the Department of Buildings (DOB), Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and elected officials. DOB and HPD responded to the apartment building and DOB vacated 8 illegal Single Room Occupancy (SRO) units in the basement and the tenants were offered relocation assistance from the Red Cross. The vacate orders were issued for illegal subdivisions and lack of secondary egress (unrelated to rat infestation).
- DOHMH, in partnership with its sister agencies HPD and DOB, is working with the owner of 750 Grand Concourse and building owners in the affected area to remediate rodent infestations, including removing debris, cleaning, sealing cracks and holes, exterminating and setting traps.
Immediate Future Actions
- On Wednesday, February 15, DOHMH will hold a tenant meeting to update residents and answer questions. DOHMH will also distribute masks to tenants of the building which are advised to be worn when entering the building’s basement.
- Joint inspections of the building and surrounding buildings will be conducted as determined by DOHMH.
- In addition, Members of the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit (PEU) are canvassing local residents effective today, Wednesday, February 15, 2017.
For more information, visit nyc.gov/health and search "leptospirosis."
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177 PressOffice@health.nyc.gov