Puerto Rico in­ves­ti­gates dis­ease out­break

Simcoe Reformer - - WORLD NEWS - MICHAEL MELIA

SAN JUA N, Puerto Rico — Four deaths in Hur­ri­cane Maria’s af­ter­math are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated as pos­si­ble cases of a dis­ease spread by an­i­mals’ urine, Puerto Rico’s gover­nor said Wednesday amid con­cerns about is­landers’ ex­po­sure to con­tam­i­nated wa­ter.

A to­tal of 10 peo­ple have come down with sus­pected cases of lep­tospiro­sis, Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­sello said at a news con­fer­ence.

On a U.S. ter­ri­tory where a third of cus­tomers re­main with­out run­ning wa­ter three weeks after the hur­ri­cane, some be­came ill after turn­ing to lo­cal streams to re­lieve their thirst.

Jorge An­to­nio Sanyet Mo­rales, a 61-year-old bus driver, took a drink from a stream near his con­crete home on a hillside in Canovanas a week after the Sept. 20 storm. He then de­vel­oped a fever, his skin turned yel­low and within a week, he died at a hos­pi­tal in Carolina, ac­cord­ing to his widow, Mar­itza Rivera.

Dr. Juan San­ti­ago said Sanyet was among five pa­tients who came in his emer­gency clinic last week with sim­i­lar symp­toms after drink­ing from streams in Canovanas and Loiza.

The wa­ter was still not run­ning at Sanyet’s house this week, but Rivera, said she and her fam­ily were drink­ing only bot­tled wa­ter, in­clud­ing some de­liv­ered by the town. Her hus­band was the only one who drank from the stream, she said.

“He was a friend to ev­ery­one,” Rivera said. “I don’t know how I’ll face ev­ery­thing with­out him.”

Forty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been blamed on Hur­ri­cane Maria, which tore across the is­land with 240 km/ h winds. Ninety per cent of the is­land is still with­out power and the gov­ern­ment says it hopes to have elec­tric­ity re­stored com­pletely by March.

Lep­tospiro­sis is not un­com­mon in the trop­ics, par­tic­u­larly after heavy rains or floods. Ros­sello said the symp­toms can be con­fused with those of other ill­nesses, in­clud­ing dengue, and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion was help­ing to in­ves­ti­gate. Two of the deaths were in Baya­mon, and one each in Carolina and Mayaguez. Other pa­tients have been re­ceiv­ing treat­ment with an­tibi­otics.

Ros­sello said that fliers with in­struc­tions on how to dis­in­fect wa­ter will be sent to may­ors for dis­tri­bu­tion with food sup­plies in towns across Puerto Rico.

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