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Q&A: Campaign's goal is to raise awareness of polio problem in other countries

Raising global polio awareness

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I noticed a billboard on U.S. 19 that said we are "this close" to ending polio, with a man holding two fingers about an inch apart. Then I saw another billboard with Bill Gates and the same message. I thought polio had been wiped out in the United States?

The billboards you are seeing are part of a campaign to raise money and awareness to fight polio overseas. Almost two years ago, Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates made it a large part of his philanthropic giving.

As you correctly note, polio has been eradicated in the United States. But it still infects people in many foreign countries. In late November, the CDC warned American travelers to those countries to check with their doctors on being updated on their vaccinations. The list of countries noted in the CDC report: Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Iran, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Uganda and Zambia.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is caused by a virus that affects a person's nervous system. It is spread these days primarily by consuming an item that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. While it mostly affects children under the age of 5, anyone who has not been vaccinated is at risk.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, about 35,000 people a year were crippled by polio in the United States. By 1979, thanks to vaccines developed by Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, the country was declared polio-free.

What makes a PA, an NP?

Recently there was an article regarding the use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the medical field. What, if any, is the difference between a PA and an NP?

The main differences are training and background. Also, physician assistants must work under the direction of a doctor, but a nurse practitioner could have more autonomy, depending on where they live.

"While some states have no requirements for an NP to have a collaborative relationship with a physician or other providers, so that they are more 'independent,' other states do have requirements for some level of collaborative agreement to be in place," Mary Jo Goolsby, director of research and education at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, told the Washington Post.

PAs have at least a master's degree and attend classes and programs that train them in medical areas. They can be either general practitioners or specialize, and often begin work directly after training. Most NPs have several years of nursing experience before becoming an NP, and most have an advanced degree.

PAs and NPs are licensed, accredited and regulated by their states. They both can diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, and they can write prescriptions, with some limitations, according to their state.

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Q&A: Campaign's goal is to raise awareness of polio problem in other countries 12/09/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 7:11pm]
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