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Nigeria marks polio-free year

LAGOS, Nigeria — Once stigmatized as the world’s polio epicenter, Nigeria on Friday celebrated its first year with no reported case of the crippling disease, having overcome obstacles ranging from Islamic extremists who killed vaccinators to rumors the vaccine was a plot to sterilize Muslims.

Just 20 years ago this West African nation was recording 1,000 polio cases a year — the highest in the world. The last recorded case of a child paralyzed by the wild polio virus endemic in Nigeria’s impoverished and mainly Muslim north was on July 24, 2014.

‘‘We are celebrating the first time ever that Nigeria has gone without a case of polio, but with caution,’’ Dr. Tunji Funsho, chairman of Rotary International’s polio campaign in Nigeria, said.

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If there are no new cases and laboratory tests remain negative in the next few weeks, the World Health Organization will take Nigeria off the list of polio-endemic countries, said Oliver Rosenbauer of the United Nations agency’s polio unit.

Nigeria is the last African country on that list.

The two remaining countries are Pakistan, which recorded 28 new cases this year, and Afghanistan, with five, said Rosenbauer.

Associated Press