Every time you hear about Americans in Puerto Rico with no water, no fuel to boil water, no way to get rid of waste water…think water-borne infectious disease. This will be an epic disaster. One that was entirely predictable.
Public health officials should be shoulder to shoulder with the military, staged for response. I’ve searched the CDC and looked at the reporting coming out of the island in the many days since the storm, and I see no trace of action.
I pray they are not waiting for a call.
Below, from the Miami Herald, is an appeal from the Dean of Florida International University’s College of Social Work and Public Health, Tomas R. Guilarte, describing what the chaos looks like to a public health expert:
In the days since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, conditions on the island continue to deteriorate and become a humanitarian and public health catastrophe that could rival the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
The fact that the power grid failed creates many obvious problems and some that are not so evident. When the sewer system stops working, wastewater—aka human feces and urine—and seaborne bacteria contaminate the water supply.
This leads to bacterial infections — such as cholera, dysentery, E. coli and typhoid — that can be disastrous. The typical treatments, like tetanus shots or powerful antibiotics, are not readily available on the island, where medical supplies are quickly running out.