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Rare Infection Kills One, Sickens Two In Bronx

A type of bacterial infection caused by rat urine has killed one person and sickened two more in New York City, city officials said.

The infection, called leptospirosis, is carried by animals and rarely found in humans. The affected individuals lived on the same block of the Concourse section of the Bronx.

"Human leptospirosis cases are very rare in New York City," Demetre Daskalakis, acting deputy commissioner of the Health Department, told the New York Post.

"This is the first time a cluster of cases has been identified," he continued. "All three cases had severe illness and were hospitalized with acute renal [kidney] and hepatic [liver] failure. Two cases developed pulmonary hemorrhage and one died as a result of infection."

Two of the cases were diagnosed in December 2016, while the third was diagnosed in February, according to WPIX.

Among the patients was Braulio Balbuena Flores, who spent two weeks in intensive care.

"I had a fever," he told the New York Post. "I couldn't eat, couldn’t sleep, [my] whole body hurt."

He says his jaw has been chattering uncontrollably ever since.

An official statement from the Health Department indicated that steps have been taken to prevent any further outbreak.

"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," the statement said.

A total of 26 cases of leptospirosis were documented in New York City between 2006 and 2016, according to the New York Post. The median age of affected persons was 42, and all but one of them were male.

Leptospirosis gets into the body through open wounds, or via the eyes, nose or mouth, WPIX reports. Common symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, liver and kidney functions are affected. It is usually treatable with antibiotics.

Sources: New York Post, WPIX / Photo credit: NIAID/Wikimedia Commons

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