Estimates of excess deaths in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria

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  1. Jeffrey T. Howard

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Description: BACKGROUND: This descriptive finding examines excess deaths following Hurricane María, in Puerto Rico for September and October 2017. OBJECTIVE: We seek to determine the degree of excess deaths in Puerto Rico based on historical patterns of variability in deaths by month for the 2010-2016 period and using estimation techniques. METHODS: Data for this study come from death records from the Puerto Rico Vital Statistics system. We aggregated data by month and year (2010-2016) and produced means (expected deaths) and 95% confidence intervals (C.I., or patterns of variability) for each month. Using public statements from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety, we estimate the number of deaths for September and October 2017 and compare it to the level of expected deaths considering the pattern of variability. RESULTS: Expected deaths for September and October were 2,383 (95% C.I. 2,296-2,469) and 2,428 (95% C.I. 2,380 - 2,476), respectively. Estimates for total deaths, for September and October 2017 were 2,987 (95% CI 2,900-3,074) and 3,043 (95% C.I. 2,995-3,091), respectively. The difference between our estimates and the upper 95% CI for the average deaths is 518 deaths for September and 567 deaths for October. CONCLUSIONS: The mortality burden may higher than official counts, and may exceed the current official death toll by a factor of 10 or more.

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