Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease spread by animal urine - in this case by rats.
The New York City Department of Health says at least three cases of the disease known as Leptospirosis, which is contracted while coming in contact with rat urine, were reported within the 700 block of the Grand Concourse between December and February. Normally the entire city sees just one to three cases in a year, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The New York Times reports that the city is investigating the matter.
The three cases occurred in the last two months in a Bronx neighborhood.
Some people infected with Leptospira bacteria may have no symptoms at all, according to the CDC.
Symptoms include fever, nausea, muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Cases rarely become life-threatening. Of those cases, eight were in the Bronx, according to the newspaper. The CDC says that without treatment, Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress and death. The two survivors are now out of the hospital.
Health officials said they are now trying to address the problem, and will be holding a meeting for tenants to solve it.
At a news conference Wednesday, Ruben Diaz Jr., Bronx borough president, called for calm in the wake of the news.
Avoid contact with rats or with places where rats may have urinated. "I think that what we need to do now is educate the public on exactly what it is that leptospirosis is". In the meantime, the Housing Preservation and Development and the Buildings Departments have immediately begun reducing the rat population in the area.
To prevent the disease, the Health Department recommended taking precautions including washing hands after being in contact with any areas where rats might live and using a solution of one part household bleach and 10 parts water to kill the bacteria when cleaning up an area where rats have been.