The ongoing rat issue in New York is now leading to many potential health concerns for residents.

Disease spread by rat urine is on the rise in New York

Rat Urine Disease On The Rise In New York


The Department of Mental Health and Hygiene issued a health advisory because New York City is seeing a dramatic increase in human leptospirosis, a disease that is caused by rat urine.

In 2023, New York City reported 24 cases of human leptospirosis, which is the highest number ever confirmed, officials say.

Already in 2024, there have been at least six cases, as of April 10.

Between 2001 and 2020 there were about 3 confirmed cases each year. The average number of cases between 2021 and 2023 jumped to 15 per year, according to the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

In recent years six New Yorkers have died from the disease, the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene confirms.

How Is This Rare Disease Spread?


The disease is spread by bacteria in the urine of infected rats.

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Many infected New Yorkers have a history of exposure to rat urine or environments including soil and water and materials contaminated with rat urine like touching trash bags or bins containing food waste, officials say.

It can be contracted by getting water or soil contaminated by the urine in your mouth, nose or broken skin.



Doctors say the disease, if left untreated, can cause liver damage and kidney failure "and occasionally severe pulmonary involvement."

There are a wide range of symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • cough
  • conjunctival suffusion
  • jaundice
  • rash

"If not treated, kidney failure, meningitis, liver damage, and respiratory distress can occur," the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene states. "The incubation period is usually 5–14 days, with a range of 2–30 days.

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