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Rats have for long been an unfamous staple of New York City, but their presence has lately gone from mostly unpleasant to a palpable danger as authorities reported a large increase in related illnesses over the past year.

According to CBS News, the city's health department tallied 24 cases of leptospirosis in 2023, the highest in a single year in record.

The disease is contracted when a person comes in contact with rat urine, and usually happens when handling trash bags or bins with food waste.

If not treated, leptospirosis can cause kidney failure, meningitis, liver damage and even death.

"Not only are rodents unsightly and can traumatize your day, but they're a real health-related crises," Mayor Eric Adams said.

In that context, New York City authorities will start an education campaign to raise awareness about the need to be attentive and careful. Adams said that the city is also expediting a program to get plastic garbage bags off the street and into containers.

"We though that it was going to take four and a half years to containerize our garbage. We're going to do it in two and a half years," Adams said.

The city's rat population has soared over the past decade, reaching as many as 3 million, The Guardian reported in late 2023. That's about a third of the human population.

Authorities have hired a "Rat Czar," Kathleen Corradi, to try to eradicate the rodent, but her job is monumental: One pair of rats can breed up to 15,000 specimens in a year.

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