In the month after Hurricane Maria, a water-borne infection has increased the U.S. territory’s death toll. According to CNN, the death toll from the storm has risen to 51, with the latest two victims of the natural disaster having died from leptospirosis. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The hurricane, which has been deemed the worst natural disaster to hit Dominica, ravaged through Puerto Rico, leaving the entire island without power. The storm caused a major humanitarian crisis on the island, as the second Category 5 storm to form in the Atlantic.
Since then, the island has announced at least 76 cases of suspected and confirmed leptospirosis. According to reports, the bacteria can be found in urine of animals and can spread after floods through contaminated waters. However, the infection can be treated with antibiotics.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“It’s neither an epidemic nor a confirmed outbreak,” Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario Cortes said Sunday. “But obviously, we are making all the announcements as though it were a health emergency.”
“The majority of the lepto cases is a mild, subclinical disease with no complications,” the state epidemiologist for Puerto Rico said. “But one out of 10 people who have leptospirosis develop severe illness,” which can be fatal.