New York Is Full of Gross Diseases


This morning we awoke with a hacking cough (okay, it’s been hanging around for a few days now) and realized upon attempting to yell at a possible mouse behind our refrigerator that our voice was all but gone. But instead of feeling sad about this, we turned to the New York Times and realized that we’re simply in good company, and that our little ailment, in fact, is a whole lot better than, say, leprosy. Which people in New York City have. Leprosy. That doesn’t sound fun.

Last weekend it was reported that three people in the city had cholera. We heard about malaria all summer. And recently we also heard meningitis had been “going around.” But it turns out those are the merest tip of the iceberg. Or as the Times puts it, “the city is not just a world capital of arts, business and the like — but also of exotic diseases.” Yay.

For instance, several people every year are found to have a biblical disease, leprosy, though health officials say no one has to fear catching it in the subway. In 2002, bubonic plague, more commonly associated with the 14th century, found its way to New York City through two travelers who came from a ranch in New Mexico, where the disease is endemic in flea-bitten wild animals like prairie dogs.

Fortunately, the city has its “syndromic surveillance system” on the lookout for weird disease patterns in ERs. There are biosensor detectors, which sound like something from a sci-fi movie, that “draw in air and analyze it for telltale pathogens.” And there’s always WebMD, and for New York City-specific info, EpiQuery, which the Times tells us lists diseases caught by New York City residents that are reportable by law. This sounds like a treasure trove for hypochondriacs!

So we checked it out. These are the “Top 10” diseases in New York.

Well, that’s enough to make you start washing your hands.

Leprosy, Plague and Other Visitors to New York [NYT]

Most Popular