Deaths from bacterial disease in Puerto Rico spiked after Maria

Previously unreleased data from a Puerto Rico mortality database—which CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) sued the island's Demographic Registry to get—lists 26 deaths in the 6 months following Hurricane Maria that were caused by leptospirosis, a bacterial illness that spreads through water and soil especially after st

Previously unreleased data from a Puerto Rico mortality database—which CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (CPI) sued the island's Demographic Registry to get—lists 26 deaths in the 6 months following Hurricane Maria that were caused by leptospirosis, a bacterial illness that spreads through water and soil especially after storms. That is more than double the 11 suspected leptospirosis deaths in Puerto Rico the previous year, according to an analysis of federal records. Seven experts—five epidemiologists and two medical doctors who specialize in the related diseases—said Puerto Rico's mortality database and its own figures indicate that an "epidemic" or an "outbreak" occurred, despite Puerto Rico officials' refusal to call it that. Researchers say the Hurricane Maria death toll of 64, which attributes only four leptospirosis deaths to the hurricane, was severely underestimated. The data shows that deaths increased after the September 20 storm and continued beyond October 20, which Puerto Rico considers to be the cutoff for attributing lab-confirmed leptospirosis deaths to the hurricane. Beyond fatalities, there is also evidence that leptospirosis illnesses increased. The Puerto Rico Department of Health said there were 57 laboratory-confirmed cases of leptospirosis illnesses in 2017, 54 of them after Hurricane Maria. That is a three- and four-fold increase in confirmed illnesses over the previous 2 years, according to the figures provided.