Illness Spreads in Puerto Rico

Country lacks clean drinking water after Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria affects Puerto Rico drinking water

The death toll in Puerto Rico has risen to 49, and much of the island still lacks access to clean drinking water more than one month after Hurricane Maria.

Some deaths are due to an illness called Leptospirosis. While the illness is not uncommon in Puerto Rico, residents are at higher risk after the storm. According to Dr. Robert Kaldec, Leptospirosis is a nondescript febrile illness that results in myalgias, muscle pain and fever. Vulnerable populations like the elderly are at higher risk to contract the disease. Residents should avoid exposure to contaminated water, not only through drinking, but also through wading in it or exposing a cut to it.

Officials reported that water reaching two-thirds of homes on the island is now safe to drink. However, testing laboratories are lacking technology to fully measure the water quality. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges residents to boil water and to avoid water from unsafe sources, like rivers and streams. It is urgent that the island is returned to full power, so that treatment facilities and pumps can deliver clean, safe drinking water to all residents. 

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