Puerto Rico Should Have Declared Leptospirosis Epidemic or Outbreak after Hurricane Maria, Experts Say

July 18, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Officials should have declared an epidemic or outbreak based on the number of deaths due to the bacterial disease leptospirosis after Hurricane Maria, instead of denying an epidemic had occurred, according to five epidemiologists and two physicians quoted in a July 3, 2018 CNN article. A mortality database on the island lists 26 deaths due to leptospirosis, a bacterial illness. The condition is rarely fatal, can be treated with common antibiotics, and spreads through water and soil, particularly after storms such as Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico's Health Department, which operates separately from the mortality database, said just 4 deaths were due to leptospirosis as of June 22, 2018, and, according to CNN, added 2 more after being questioned on the 26 deaths listed in the database.

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