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Photo: AFP Contributor/Getty Images

At least 26 people died of the bacterial disease leptospirosis in Puerto Rico during the six months after Hurricane Maria, according to a new report from CNN and the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo.

Why it matters: Leptospirosis, an illness often spread in floodwaters via animal urine, is rarely a fatal disease and is easily treatable with antibiotics — but the Puerto Rican government refused to declare an outbreak, which could have furthered the illness' effects by failing to prompt greater surveillance and prevention efforts.

Twenty-six deaths attributed to leptospirosis — that's extraordinary. There's no other way of putting it. ... The numbers are huge."
— UCSD medical professor Dr. Joseph Vinetz told CNN

The big picture: As of June 22, Puerto Rico's Health Department said only four people had died of the disease because of Maria. They added two to that count after CNN asked about the 26 deaths, which had been discovered via a Puerto Rican mortality database.

  • The government's official death toll from the storm sits at 64 and doesn't include the two cases added by Puerto Rico's Health Department, pending a wider government review of the death toll. Independent estimates believe that number is widely underreported — and could number in the thousands.

The bottom line: Nine months later, there are still many unanswered questions about the storm and its overall impacts on Puerto Rico, leaving families and residents at a loss regarding officially uncounted deaths.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Kevin McCarthy's rude awakening

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is learning you can get torched when you try to make everyone happy, especially after an insurrection.

Why it matters: The House Republican leader had been hoping to use this year to build toward taking the majority in 2022, but his efforts to bridge intra-party divisiveness over the Capitol siege have him taking heat from every direction, eroding his stature both with the public and within his party.

The next big political war: redistricting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are preparing a mix of tech and legal strategies to combat expected gerrymandering by Republicans, who are planning to go on legal offense themselves.

Why it matters: Democrats failed to regain a single state legislature on Election Day, while Republicans upped their control to 30 states' Houses and Senates. In the majority of states, legislatures draw new congressional district lines, which can boost a party's candidates for the next decade.

54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Vaccinations, relief timing dominate Sweet 16 call

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks during a news conference in December with a group of bipartisan lawmakers. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Vaccine distribution, pandemic data and a cross-party comity dominated today's virtual meeting between White House officials and a bipartisan group of 16 senators, Senator Angus King told Axios.

Why it matters: Given Democrats' razor-thin majority in both chambers of Congress, President Biden will have to rely heavily on this group of centrist lawmakers — dubbed the "Sweet 16" — to pass any substantial legislation.