The Zika virus has been blamed for causing miscarriages and brain damage in babies.
And former Hollyoaks actress Kelly-Marie Stewart believes she may have been an early victim of the mosquito-borne illness, contracted during a holiday in the Dominican Republic nine years ago.
Following her ill-fated trip, the 31-year-old star lost the use of her legs and was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome as well as suffering a devastating miscarriage.
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Sharing her story: Ex Hollyoaks star Kelly-Marie Stewart believes she may have contracted the Zika virus during a trip to the Dominican Republic nine years ago, leaving her paralysed from the waist down
Kelly’s claims come after researchers found the Zika virus might cause the severe neurological disorder.
Describing her terrible flu-like symptoms, the former air hostess told the Liverpool Echo: ‘I put it down to picking up a bug, but I was covered from head to toe in mosquito bites – I looked like a Lion bar.’
She was 16 weeks pregnant at the time, but just a few days upon her return to the UK she sadly lost her unborn child.
Fighting spirit: Kelly-Marie – who became the first disabled actress to land a full-time role in Hollyoaks – defied the odds and can now get around using crutches
Kelly-Marie’s condition worsened and she was hospitalised for 10 months, resulting in her weight plummeting from nine stone down to five.
The blonde was left paralysed from the waist down and was told she would never walk again.
Kelly-Marie – who welcomed daughter Daisie-Ann five years ago – defied the odds, however, and is now able to walk using crutches.
Doting mum: Kelly-Marie was 16 weeks pregnant when she became ill and sadly lost her baby, but was overjoyed when she welcomed daughter Daisie-Ann five years ago
She also became the first disabled actress to land a full-time role in Hollyoaks when she was cast as Hayley Ramsey in 2008.
The star is now hoping that by sharing her story she will help raise awareness about the virus, and is urging pregnant women to reconsider travelling to countries affected by the disease.
She said: ‘I’m fortunate to be back on my feet and to have Daisie. But this is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life.’
Raising awareness: The star is hoping that by sharing her story she will help raise awareness about the virus, and is urging pregnant women to reconsider travelling to countries affected by the disease