Health officials are warning Superstorm Sandy could see disease-ridden rodents flushed out from their underground residency in New York's subway system and into the city streets.
The cyclone has already caused widespread flooding in the Big Apple's extensive subway system, where millions of rats live and breed.
Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Milbrook, New York told the Huffington Post the flooding was unlikely to wipe out rat populations but rather displace them.
"Rats are incredibly good swimmers," said Ostfeld. "And they can climb."
He believed New Yorkers could soon be faced with an increased risk of infectious diseases carried by urban rats, including leptospirosis, hantavirus, typhus, salmonella, and even the plague.
"One of things we know can exacerbate disease is massive dispersal."
"Rats are highly social individuals and live in a fairly stable social structure. If this storm disturbs that, rats could start infesting areas they never did before."
The city closed down subway, bus and commuter train systems yesterday in preparation for Superstorm Sandy.