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Puerto Rico sees rise in leptospirosis after Hurricane Maria

The strongest storm to hit the island in decades left hospitals flooded, strewn with rubble and dependent on diesel generators to keep the neediest patients alive.

FILE: Debris is scattered around a destroyed house in the Acerolas neighbourhood, in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, on 1 October 2017. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Puerto Rico has reported at least 76 cases of suspected and confirmed leptospirosis, including a handful of deaths, in the month after Hurricane Maria.

The strongest storm to hit the island in decades left hospitals flooded, strewn with rubble and dependent on diesel generators to keep the neediest patients alive.

The hurricane was ranked a Category 4 storm, near the top of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of up to 155mph, when it made landfall on Puerto Rico as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years.

Two deaths involved leptospirosis confirmed through laboratory testing, and several other deaths are pending test results.

The 76 cases, up from 74 last week, also include one patient with confirmed leptospirosis who is currently hospitalised.

In serious cases, the bacterial infection causes organ failure and can be fatal.

WATCH: Hurricane Maria: 3 weeks later

Additional reporting by Reuters.