New analysis estimates much higher death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

Bottom Line: Due to differences in methods, there have been various estimates of the number of deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island on September 20, 2017. The official death toll has remained at 64 since December 2017. The official government death toll includes some deaths in which documentation of "hurricane-related" as the cause of death appears on the individual's death certificate and does not account for indirect deaths, including from infectious disease outbreaks or lack of services (such as electricity, water, and medical care). Using death counts from vital statistics records, researchers estimate the number of hurricane-related deaths in Puerto Rico through December 2017 was 1,139. The authors note the estimate is conservative.

Authors: Alexis R. Santos-Lozada, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Jeffrey T. Howard, Ph.D., University of Texas at San Antonio

To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.

Related material: In this JAMA Medical News article and podcast, Dr. Myriam Allende-Vigo, an endocrinologist practicing in Puerto Rico, recounts her experiences treating patients during and after last year's hurricane.

(doi:10.1001/jama.2018.10929)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including author contributions, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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