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Concern in Haiti over emerging condition linked to Zika

Published:Wednesday | May 25, 2016 | 5:00 AM
A vendor shovels rubbish away from her stand at a street market in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. New research suggests that the Zika virus has been present in Haiti since 2014.

MIREBALAIS (AP):

Berny Saint-Sauveur was moaning and incoherent when his family carried him into a hospital in central Haiti. He was unable to move, he later found out, because of an unusual paralysis syndrome linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

"I thought I was a dead man," Saint-Sauveur recalled in an interview from his hospital bed, wearily rubbing bloodshot eyes.

After two weeks, the 46-year-old rice farmer was recovering from the nervous system illness known as Guillain-Barre and about to be discharged from the hospital in Mirebalais. Doctors and scientists, meanwhile, are bracing for the possibility of a wave of rare disorders triggered by Zika in an impoverished country that has faced one public-health crisis after another and is fertile ground for mosquito-borne scourges.

Zika causes mild symptoms such as rash and fever in most people, but when Brazil reported outbreaks for the first time last year, doctors saw a dramatic increase in Guillain-Barre and a severe birth defect called microcephaly resulting in infants with abnormally small heads. The World Health Organization says there is now scientific consensus that Zika is a cause of both disorders.