SAN JUAN – The number of deaths in Puerto Rico attributable to Hurricane Maria has reached 51, the island’s government said Tuesday.
Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario told a press conference that the two latest fatalities were due to leptospirosis, a bacterial disease caused by exposure to contaminated water.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed three new cases of the illness, Rosario said.
Puerto Rican health authorities deny the island is facing an epidemic of leptospirosis, despite reports of 70 suspected cases in the past month, compared with fewer than 60 cases total in an average year.
The US commonwealth’s chief epidemiologist, Carmen Deseda, described the spate of infections since Maria struck on Sept. 20 as an outbreak.
The Category 4 storm devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, leaving roads impassable and knocking out utilities. Most households remain without electricity and many residents continue to lack access to safe drinking water.