A Year After Maria: How the Death Toll Rose from 64 to 4,645


Andrea Rivera. 3/3/2019. “A Year After Maria: How the Death Toll Rose from 64 to 4,645.” The Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal .


About the Research: According to a study published in May 29, 2018, in the New England Journal of Medicine, the mortality rate in Puerto Rico may have risen by 62% and estimated that there were 4,645 deaths in 2017 during the period following Hurricane Maria, as opposed to the government’s official death count of 64 people. This study led by a collaboration between Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico suggests that Puerto Rico’s official death registry has underestimated this death toll. 

Living in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, I have experienced first-hand what the research describes. When this paper was published, it caused wide-spread controversy among the population of PR, the government, and by researchers around the world. The death toll of Puerto Rico is still a hot topic and highly debated, especially as it's been more than a year from the catastrophe. My goal was to analyze the research and its validity and what this may imply for Puerto Rico and its public health with the start of the new hurricane season.