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11 malaria cases fan fears of wide outbreak in Haiti

MIAMI - The first feared cases of malaria have come to Haiti, weeks before the start of its next rainy season in May, and health officials are concerned that the deadly disease could become widespread.

Eleven cases confirmed among emergency personnel and Haitian residents have officials worried for them and for the more than 500,000 Haitians made homeless by the Jan. 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

"Displaced persons living outdoors or in temporary shelters and thousands of emergency responders in Haiti are at substantial risk for malaria," said a report yesterday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Carried by mosquitoes, the P. falciparum strain of malaria "causes the most severe disease and highest mortality, and is the predominant species in Haiti," the CDC says.

Each year, Haiti has 30,000 confirmed cases of malaria, and officials believe the actual number is closer to 200,000.

Heavy rains came early, on Feb. 28, in the southeastern city of Les Cayes, creating floods that killed eight people.

The 11 cases so far include: seven emergency responders, including six military; three Haitian residents who traveled to the United States, including one Haitian adoptee; and one U.S. traveler. All are expected to make a full recovery.

- The Miami Herald

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