Written by Charlie Van Horn
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Topics: Health, Nigeria

Sunday, 4 July 2004

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Health officials in this growing African city are concerned with reports of an outbreak of Polo that hasn't been seen in nearly fifty years. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Health Minister for the western African nation, is still fielding calls from as far away as Kano and Sokoto.

"The early reports themselves were very disturbing" Ransome-Kuti said by phone on Friday, "Whole groups of young men at first became infected, then proceeded to round up the animals and the sticks"

Stones were place at either end of a village common in Zaria to act as crude goals in this new infectious sport.

Polo, the oldest communicable activity in the world, originated among Turkic-Mongol peoples. The United States has been Polo free since 1959.

Center for Disease Control in Atlanta spokesperson Ed Stevenson cautions those who want to travel to Africa and other Polo afflicted areas.

"We suggest you get a booster shot" Stevenson said, "and if you know how to ride an animal or play any form of field hockey, we suggest you don't travel at all".

The elderly and very young children do not seem to succumb to Polo. This trait has puzzled researchers for nearly four decades.

"What surprises me is that the spike of infection is increased based on how rich and white the person is" quipped Ransome-Kuti.

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