The Dominican Republic mystery deepens: Nearly 70 tourists have fallen violently ill while vacationing in the country since March
Resorts in the Caribbean nation have come under scrutiny after three Americans died while staying at luxury hotels last month
Six seemingly healthy American citizens have died in the Dominican Republic over the last 12 months, three of them in the last month itself, after falling violently ill while in the country and concerns have been raised over the safety of tourists traveling to the Caribbean nation.
According to New York Post, the recent string of deaths is reflective of what might just turn out to be a concerning epidemic in the country, with nearly 70 further tourists reportedly getting violently ill while vacationing in the popular tourist destination since March.
Iwaspoisoned.com, a consumer website that allows for diners to report suspected food poisoning and bad food experiences, 240 people had fallen sick in the Dominican Republic in the last seven days.
Of those, 52 reported symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, and more than 45 of those said they were guests at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, the same resort where 67-year-old Robert Bell Wallace and David Harrison had become seriously ill and died over the past year.
"Had drinks at hard rock and then was violently ill vomiting," one wrote. "Couldn't get off the floor. The workers had to transport me back to my room by golf cart. Couldn't eat or drink the rest of the stay. I was basically incapacitated the whole vacation [sic]."
"Stayed at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana from May 31, 2019, to June 4, 2019, for a destination wedding," another posted. "The evening of Saturday, June 1st, I began vomiting, which lasted until noon the following day. It was accompanied by diarrhea, nausea/stomach pains, and a fever."
"I spent the day in an ER in Bavaro and was prescribed antibiotics, anti-nausea/diarrheal, and probiotics. I was also given IV fluids for dehydration. Blood/urine/fecal tests confirmed a gastrointestinal infection."
Guests who were staying at the Paradisus Punta Cana Resort, Dreams Dominicus La Romana, El Toro resort, and the Luxury Bahia Principe Esmeralda also reported similarly bad, but luckily non-fatal experiences.
Speaking about the sudden rise in such cases —only 10 such illnesses were reported from the country for the entirety of 2018 — Patrick Quade, the founder of Iwaspoisoned.com, said, "People report food-borne illnesses but it’s possible that they experienced some other type of contamination."
He said they first started seeing unusual activity in April when six people reported being ill on the island and that, since then, the number of cases has exploded, adding that he had consulted experts over the matter.
One of those experts, Lee-Ann Jaykus, a food microbiologist in the Department of Food Science at North Carolina State University, theorized that exposure to an insecticide called organophosphate could result in severe vomiting and diarrhea, and in extreme cases, cardiac arrest and death.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now joined other international agencies in conducting tests at the Bahia Principe properties, and the FBI has confirmed it is assisting local authorities in investigating the deaths.
On its travel advisory alerts issued in April, the US State Department rated the Dominican Republic a level two out of four and urged visitors to "exercise increased caution."