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Concern Over Deadly 'Leptospirosis' In Bronx Building Where Rats 'Run Rampant'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A disease spread by rats has been blamed for killing one person, and sickening at least two others.

The Health Department said two patients were diagnosed in December, and one in February. Residents are upset that they are just finding out about the outbreak now, and demanded that something be done about the ongoing rat problem.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, New York City Department of Health employees were stationed in the lobby of 750 Grand Concourse in the Bronx with alarming news for residents.

Within a one block radius there have been three cases of Leptospirosis -- a bacterial infection most commonly spread by contact with rat urine.

A 43-year-old man was one of the infected residents.

In Spanish he told CBS2 that he feels better, but is still recovering after being treated with antibiotics.

It's unacceptable to residents who said the rat problem there has been an issue for years.

"They run from underneath your stove, your refrigerator, my apartment is very clean, but it just doesn't matter. There's just holes where they find their way in," Florence Howard said.

The Health Department said there are typically one to three cases of Leptospirosis every year in New York City. While it is very rarely spread from person to person the illness can be serious.

The bacteria enters the body through open wounds and cuts in the skin, or through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Some people who are infected may not develop symptoms, while others may have a mild illness with fever, headache chills, muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea. In some cases patients may develop a life-threatening illness that affects their kidneys and liver.

It's now a scary reality for those in the building.

"Everything I wash I have to use bleach because they run around rampantly like they're part of your house," Howard said.

Many walls and doors in the building are boarded up -- which is how residents say the rats get inside. They said they've complained many times, but nothing has been done.

"There's a lack of concern about the building, there's a lack of concern with the super and the landlord," Howard said.

The Health Department said they are trying to reduce the rat problem in the building, and in the meantime they are holding a meeting for tenants of the building on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby.


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