Reports of a serious polio outbreak among children in Rogo, Nigeria

Reports of a serious polio outbreak among children in Rogo, Kano State, have emerged. Kano is Nigeria's most populous northern state. Kano State until recently had boycotted immunization campaigns.

Kano is the fourth and largest Nigerian state to adopt Sharia (the adoption of Islamic law), which includes punishments such as amputation and flogging. Many muslims in the region had viewed the mmunization campaigns as part of an American led plot to make Muslims sterile.

Local officials in Rogo said on Friday that they had recorded dozens of suspected polio cases in the last few weeks. Rogo is 80 kilometres southeast of the state capital Kano.

Poliomyelitis ("polio") is a viral paralytic disease. The causative agent, a virus called poliovirus, enters the body orally, infecting the intestinal lining. It may proceed to the blood stream and into the central nervous system causing paralysis and muscle weakness.

Polio may be spread through contact with feces or through airborne particles.

The first effective polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk, and inoculations of children against polio began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on February 23, 1954. Through mass immunization, the disease was wiped out in the Americas, although it recently has re-appeared in Haiti, where political strife and poverty have interfered with vaccination efforts.

Young children who contract polio are likely to suffer only mild symptoms, and as result they may become permanently immune to the disease. Hence inhabitants of areas with better sanitation may actually be more susceptible to polio because fewer people have the disease as young children. People who have survived polio sometimes develop additional symptoms, notably muscle weakness, decades later; these symptoms are called post-polio syndrome.

The first medical report on poliomyelitis was by Jakob Heine in 1840. Karl Oskar Medin was the first to empirically study a poliomyelitis epidemic in 1890. The work of these two physicians has led to the disease being known as the Heine-Medin disease.

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