A Jackson Street resident is speaking out after losing his beloved pet to a fatal disease, in the hopes that others will not suffer the same fate.
Phillip Montana recently had to euthanize his 4-year-old dog, Simba, after he contracted leptospirosis, a disease transmitted through contact with infected animal urine, usually from rats. Like much of New York City, Montana’s home base of Jackson Street and Manhattan Avenue suffers from an infestation of rats.
Even more worrisome to Montana is the safety of his daughters, since leptospirosis is transmittable from animal-to-human. “Simba shared a bed with my daughter,” said Montana.
Montana said that he has filed complaints about the infestation to 311 and the Department of Health over the past two years, but has not received a response. “Every house on Skillman Avenue is complaining now too, this has to be a joint effort within the area.”
After Simba’s death, Montana contacted Assemblyman Joe Lentol’s office, and Lentol, a long-time animal advocate vowed to take action. “My district office staff has contacted the NYC Department of Health to ask them to immediately bait the area and to help local homeowners bait in their backyards too,” said Lentol. “The NYC Department of Health must act expeditiously to help protect our pets from leptospirosis and from its spread to humans.”
Montana is hopeful that Lentol can help. “It’s the first time I’ve heard about him saying he will go directly to the homeowners, because that’s what needs to be done,” he said. “If they don’t take care of their homes front to back, the rats are going to find something to eat there.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, leptospirosis is a rare and severe bacterial infection caused by exposure to several types of the leptospira bacteria, which can be found in fresh water contaminated by animal urine. Although it is transferrable from animals to humans, it is not transmitted from person-to-person contact.
Symptoms of leptospirosis take an average of 10 days to develop, but may take as long as 26 days, and include fever, muscle pain, nausea and shaking chills. Leptospirosis can develop into a more severe, life-threatening illness with infections in the kidney, liver, brain, lung, and heart, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While there are animal vaccines for a few of the strains, there are no human vaccines. People who contract the infection must take a therapeutic dosage of drugs including Doxycycline and penicillin.
Although the prognosis for both humans and animals that contract the infection is generally positive, a complicated case of leptospirosis can be life threatening if it is not treated properly. Early detection of the disease plays an important role in preventing severe organ damage.
“My whole family now needs to get tested as a result of this,” said Montana.
Perhaps most upsetting to Montana is the impact that the infection could have on local children. The Jackson Street Settlement House is located on the corner of Jackson and Manhattan and P.S. 132 is just two blocks away.
“Many children live and play in this area,” said Montana. “We don’t want our children or pets sick or dying. This is about quality of life.”
While he hopes to put a stop to the potentially deadly outbreak, Montana will have to make do with the memories that Simba gave him.
“He loved his yard,” said Montana. “He would stay out there all day as long as the weather was nice.”