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Dominican Republic tourist death rate is not abnormal, officials say

Boats linger offshore at Bavaro Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (F. Schneider / AP)

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – For weeks, horrifying stories of American tourists dying at resorts have trickled out of the Dominican Republic.

There was the 78-year-old man who had been fluidized in his life after day was reported to have been at his hotel; the 53-year-old woman who was found unresponsive in her room, dead after a heart attack, local authorities said; a 67-year-old who died on a trip for his stepson's wedding; a 55-year-old man whose family had died of heart and respiratory issues last week.

The deaths of at least 11 Americans over the past year have made travelers anxious and suffered to simply stay home. Headlines that characterize the illnesses and deaths as suspiciously have painted the Caribbean island nation – where tourism is the leading industry – as a place where something neces- sary might be lurking amid the pools, beaches and palm trees. threaten. But so far, there is no evidence that the spate of death and illness in the Dominican Republic is out of the ordinary for any popular tourist destination.

State Department shared some reassuring information with The Washington Post. It said it had no unusual spike in deaths reported from the Dominican Republic. About 2.7 million Americans visited the Dominican Republic last year, according to the State Department, which publicly releases data only on unnatural deaths, such as car crashes and drownings. It does not release information about deaths by natural causes, such as heart attacks or strokes, even though it compiles reports on all Americans who abroad.

It is a matter of statistics that a certain number of travelers will experience serious illnesses, accidents and even death while traveling internationally. And the death rate in the Dominican Republic is higher than the death rate in the States, officials said. [TheFBIislookingatatleastthreeofthecases:thoseofMirandaSchaup-Wernera41-year-oldoldpsychotherapistwhodiedatahotelonMay25andNathanielEdwardHolmesandCynthiaAnnDayacouplefromMarylandwhowerefoundintheirroomataneighboringresortseveraldayslaterTheMarylandcouplewerefoundtohavediedwithfluidintheirlungsaccordingtotheDominicanRepublic'snationalpolicebutdetailsaboutSchaup-Werner'sdeathhavebeenhardertopindownOfficialshavegivenconflictingstatementstomediaoutletsbuthavedeclinedtocommentrecentlycitingthependinginvestigation

A family spokesman said Schaup-Werner became ill after drinking from her room's minibar, which touched off a round of unverified speculation about whether tainted alcohol is a blame for the cluster of deaths. An attorney for the family says his team is conducting its own investigation.

The New York Post just sent a reporter to one of the resorts to some of the alcohol, and noted that "the vodka had a strange, potent click resemblance. pure alcohol. ”

Bad mess would not be unheard of. It could be part of the reason stories of death and sickness in the Caribbean have gained so much attention.

In 2017, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found found dozens of tourists who violently fall ill – often blacking out – after drinking alcohol at popular all inclusive resorts in Mexico. [Sylvester, a travel safety expert and a spokesman for World Nomads]updated his safety advice for traveling to Mexico, suggesting tourists drink in moderation and seeking medical attention immediately if they feel ill

, a global travel insurance company based in Australia, said his company also noted several issues from Australian travelers in Bali a few years back that he thinks were connected to toxic homemade alcohol.

The barrage of bad news has caused frustration and concern in the Dominican Republic, where tourism accounts for about 22 percent of the economy, directly and indirectly.

The stories have coincided with other damaging reports. Famed Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was shot in the back at a restaurant in Santo Domingo, the country's capital last week. A 51-year-old woman from Delaware, Tammy Lawrence-Daley, has recently spoken about the fact that she is suffering from a resort in Punta Cana in January

for the news, just to get the headline, and they are not really getting into what's going on. . . . The caricatures have been made, and some in the media have done a lot of damage, ”Luis José Chávez, president of the Dominican Tourism Press Association, told The Washington Post. "The whole country is trying to get over and gain back the image of what we really are."

The Dominican Republic, just a few hours on a plane from many areas in the southern and eastern United States, might be a victim of his own success as an increasingly popular vacation destination for Americans, and one that attracts a crop of travelers not used to venture to countries with different medical and legal systems.

The reports led Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) ask the State Department to reconsider the Dominican Republic's travel safety. They have also suffered from complaints from people who say they have fallen ill while traveling in the Dominican Republic.

More than 600 online visitors to the website IWasPoisoned.com in the past few months , vomiting and diarrhea that they have experienced in the Dominican Republic. It is an unusually high volume for the website, which displays anonymous accounts of food poisoning, including at restaurants in the United States, founder Patrick Quade said.

The spike in posts on Quade's site came after news of the deaths of Holmes and Day, the Maryland couple, he told The Post

It can't be said that the increase in food costs could be an effect of more media attention on Punta Cana and its resorts. The Post that they have been inundated with inquiries about how their coverage, which applies to misfortunes such as illness and injury, might work for those headed to the Dominican Republic.

Insurers know the cold statistical truth that lurks in the reams of travel data they amass

Even for vacations to tropical paradises such as the Dominican Republic, a small subset of trips will be done by serious health issues and other tragedies.

, your holiday goes off without a hitch, "Sylvester, or World Nomads, duty The Post, adding that of the other 10 percent of trips in which claims are filed, the majority hold things such as a lost cellphone, a pair of sunglasses. that flew overboard or minor health issue such as a skin rash.

But about 2 in 100 travelers who buy insurance do experience more serious incidents – medical issues that appear while they are not aware of before or accidents while in transit, particularly on motorcycles, Sylvester said.

"We are so tight, you unwind some time and you are not just stressed at work. You're actually sick, ”he said.

Robert Quigley, a cardiovascular surgeon and senior vice president of International SOS, which offers medical and travel security services for individuals and companies, said travelers experience health problems for a variety of reasons : They engage in activities they do not normally do, take more risks, try new foods and drink more than usual, making people with preexisting conditions vulnerable to medical complications, he said.

But at first glance, he said, the reported deaths in the Dominican Republic did seem to potentially indicate a cluster that was not entirely explainable by natural causes, noting that some of the victims were relatively young.

"It could raise some concern," he said, "but until there's forensic data, no conclusions can be made. ”Rosenberg reported from Washington. Faiola reported from Miami. Lindsey Bever contributed to this report.

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