Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico could see ‘significant epidemics,’ health experts warn.

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged homes and flooded streets with sewage, most Puerto Ricans remain without power or clean drinking water.

Natural disasters create a ripe environment for epidemics. No power means no drinking water for most, because local water purification systems are knocked out. People wind up drinking contaminated water from taps or rivers. Roofs and doors have been blown off, making it easier for rats and mosquitoes to get into homes. All this leaves people vulnerable to cholera, hepatitis A, meningitis, salmonella, and more.

“Unless there is massive intervention to implement some type of health infrastructure, we could see significant epidemics in the coming weeks,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, in an interview with InsideClimate News.

In Loíza, a coastal town close to San Juan, Mayor Julia Navarro reports that some residents already show signs of dengue, Zika, and pink eye. If the predictions of health experts come true, that story could extend far beyond Loíza.