Garbage collectors made up 21% of leptospirosis cases in New York City last year, union says

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
Garbage collectors made up 21% of leptospirosis cases in NYC last year
Five of the 24 people that were sickened by leptospirosis were garbage collectors.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Of the 24 people sickened in New York City last year from leptospirosis, a disease caused by rat urine, five of those cases were garbage collectors.

The union for Department of Sanitation workers put out the numbers Wednesday and said that New York's Strongest deserve to know that they will be protected if they get sick.

"Our sanitationmen and women come in every day to keep the city clean. They deserve to know they and their families will be protected if they get sick on the job," said union president Harry Nespoli. "Leptospirosis is infecting an outsize share of frontline sanitation workers. We urge the state to pass Assembly Bill A9021 and provide benefits for sanitation workers, and their families, if they are permanently injured or killed by this job-related disease."

If left untreated, leptospirosis can cause kidney failure and liver damage.

Last year's rate of 24 cases in the city was the highest number in a single year.

Six cases have been reported so far this year, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in an April 12 health advisory.

That is compared to the last two decades, where there was an average of three cases per year.

Leptospirosis is spread by bacteria in the urine of infected Norway rats, also called brown rats, who dominate the rodent population in New York City.

In 2017, one person died and two others became severely ill from the disease in the Bronx. The cluster of cases was identified at an apartment building and was caused by a rat infestation and inadequate garbage management.

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