Health Desk

Global Health
4:04 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

CDC Head: Key Interventions Have Slowed Ebola's Spread

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Shots - Health News
1:00 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

At Last, I Meet My Microbes

Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is one variety of the genus Lactobacillus is one of the common active cultures found in yogurt and in the human gut.
Scimat Scimat Getty Images/Photo Researchers

A veritable jungle of organisms is helping keep each of us alive. But we've been rather negligent hosts. For starters, we don't even know who has shown up for the party.

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Goats and Soda
10:30 am
Fri December 19, 2014

A Nurse's Desperate Plea: Show Me The Ebola Money

A body bag and some wooden sticks were used to fashion this stretcher.
Courtesy of Karin Huster

I found her curled up in the fetal position on the ground, under a piece of cardboard wet from the rain, breathing quietly. Dried blood all around her mouth. Naked. Most likely she had stumbled from her ward in the middle of the night, making it past the gates meant to separate the area where patients live from the triage area, where ambulances pull in — gates that frustratingly still won't close.

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Shots - Health News
9:47 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Some Early Childhood Experiences Shape Adult Life, But Which?

Having warm, supportive parents early on correlates with success in adulthood.
Agent Illustrateur/Ikon Images

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 1:25 pm

Most of us don't remember our first two or three years of life — but our earliest experiences may stick with us for years and continue to influence us well into adulthood.

Just how they influence us and how much is a question that researchers are still trying to answer. Two studies look at how parents' behavior in those first years affects life decades later, and how differences in children's temperament play a role.

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Shots - Health News
8:51 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Teaching Hospitals Hit Hardest By Medicare Fines For Patient Safety

NYU Langone Medical Center is one of the teaching hospitals being penalized by Medicare for its rate of medical errors.
Joshua Bright AP

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 1:18 pm

Medicare has begun punishing 721 hospitals with high rates of infections and other medical errors, cutting payments to half of the nation's major teaching hospitals and many institutions that are marquee names.

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Your Money
4:03 am
Fri December 19, 2014

When Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Their Poorest Patients

Keith Herie is swamped in debt from medical issues he and his wife encountered starting about a decade ago. Heartland hospital is seizing 10 percent of his paycheck and 25 percent of his wife's wages, and has placed a lien on their home.
Steve Hebert for ProPublica

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 9:32 am

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Mo., lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of modern brick and glass buildings. Everyone in town knows Heartland Regional Medical Center — many residents gave birth to their children here. Many rush here when they get hurt or sick.

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Goats and Soda
2:56 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

And The Award For Most Offensive Fundraising Video Goes To ...

The "Rusty Radiator" award for most offensive or stereotypical portrayal of the developing world in a fundraising video went to Feed a Child South Africa.
Feed a Child South Africa

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 1:34 pm

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Shots - Health News
1:25 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

NIH Allows Restart Of MERS Research That Had Been Questioned

A transmission electron micrograph shows Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles (colorized yellow).
NIAID

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 2:26 pm

Some researchers who study the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome got an early Christmas present: permission to resume experiments that the federal government abruptly halted in October.

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Shots - Health News
10:50 am
Thu December 18, 2014

California Whooping Cough Infections Run High Among Latino Babies

Nurse Julietta Losoyo gives Derek Lucero a whooping cough vaccination at the San Diego Public Health Center on Dec. 10.
Chris Carlson AP

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 11:22 am

California is battling the worst whooping cough epidemic in 70 years.

Nearly 10,000 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, and babies are especially prone to hospitalization or even death.

Six of 10 infants who have become ill during the current outbreak are Latino. There's no conclusive explanation, but there are a few theories that range from Latino cultural factors to a lack of health insurance.

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Goats and Soda
10:50 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Death Comes In Many Different Ways. And Some Are A Bit Surprising

A vigil is held against violence in Cali, Colombia. The country has seen some 1,090 homicides this year.
Luis Robayo AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 7:55 am

We're living longer.

And cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases aren't taking quite as much of a toll as they did a couple of decades ago.

But that doesn't mean we're immortal.

Road accidents, suicide, chronic kidney disease, alcohol-related diseases ... these are a few of the topics to discuss after looking at a new country-by-country analysis of causes of death by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

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Shots - Health News
9:44 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Is Your State Ready For The Next Infectious Outbreak? Probably Not

Alyson Hurt/NPR

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 3:12 pm

Ebola may have slid off the nation's worry list, but that doesn't mean the United States is ready to handle an outbreak of Ebola or another infectious disease, an analysis says. That includes naturally occurring outbreaks like dengue fever, tuberculosis and measles, as well as the use of bioterrorism agents like anthrax.

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Shots - Health News
8:47 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Worries About Unusual Botulinum Toxin Prove Unfounded

A culture of Clostridium botulinum, stained with gentian violet.
CDC

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 3:12 pm

Remember that worrisome new form of botulinum toxin we told you about in late 2013, the one that supposedly had to be kept secret out of fear it could be used as a bioweapon that would evade all of our medical defenses?

Well, as it turns out, it's not that scary after all. The antitoxin stored in the government's emergency stockpile works and would neutralize the toxin just fine.

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Goats and Soda
8:40 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Pakistan Keeps On Vaccinating Despite Tough Terrain And Terror Threat

A Pakistani health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a campaign in the northern city of Rawalpindi.
FAROOQ NAEEM AFP/Getty Images

Between the rugged terrain and the constant terrorist threats, vaccinating Pakistani children against common diseases hasn't been easy. Mountains make it hard — at times even impossible — for vaccinators to reach people in the north. In the south, health workers have to use four-wheelers and camels to travel through Pakistan's harsh deserts.

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Global Health
3:39 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Dreaming Up A Safer, Cooler PPE For Ebola Fighters

This design of this new anti-Ebola suit will make health workers more comfortable and could also save lives.
Courtesy of Clinvue and Roy Heisler

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:56 pm

Here's what it takes to design a better Ebola suit: a roomful of university students and professors, piles of canvas and Tyvek cloth, sewing machines, glue guns ... and chocolate syrup.

Even Youseph Yazdi, head of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID), still isn't sure what the syrup was for.

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Shots - Health News
2:47 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

What Happens After You Get That Mammogram

This graphic lays out the possible outcomes for 10,000 women if they start getting annual screening mammograms at age 50 and continue that for 10 years.
Courtesy of JAMA

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 10:50 am

Women and their doctors have a hard time figuring out the pluses and minuses of screening mammograms for breast cancer. It doesn't help that there's been fierce dissent over the benefits of screening mammography for women under 50 and for older women.

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Shots - Health News
12:30 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Managed Care Plans Make Progress In Erasing Racial Disparities

A nurse checks a man's blood pressure during a health clinic In Los Angeles.
Patrick Fallon Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:25 pm

Years of efforts to reduce the racial disparities in health care have so far failed to eliminate them. But progress is being made in the western United States, due largely to efforts by managed care plans to identify patients who were missing out on management of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

While management of blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar improved nationwide, African-Americans still "substantially" trailed whites everywhere except the western U.S., an area from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific as well as Alaska and Hawaii.

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Goats and Soda
11:13 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Medical Workers In Conflict Zones Have Never Faced Greater Risks

Dr. Mohammed Arif helps treat a wounded patient at a field hospital in Kobani, Syria. Most of the clinics in this besieged Syrian border town are now in ruins. Only one still stands, its location kept secret lest it be targeted.
Jake Simkin AP

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:26 pm

Last month, American aid worker Peter Kassig was executed in Syria by the Islamic State militant group. The 26-year-old emergency medical technician had worked in hospitals, clinics and refugee camps throughout the region for more than two years. He was known for treating anyone who needed him, regardless of political affiliation. In a country like Syria, that kind of openness is both a statement of integrity and a huge personal risk.

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Shots - Health News
11:06 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

Rob Knight, co-founder of the American Gut Project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, works in the lab where the samples are processed.
The American Gut Project

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

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Author Interviews
4:13 am
Wed December 17, 2014

25 Years Ago, 'Darkness Visible' Broke Ground Detailing Depression

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 10:29 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
4:04 am
Wed December 17, 2014

Too Little, Too Late For Many New Yorkers Seeking Hospice

Sandra Lopez (left) and her dog, Coco, greet hospice nurse Heather Meyerend last fall. In the weeks before Lopez died, Meyerend stopped by weekly to check her physical health, pain levels and medications.
Amy Pearl WNYC

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:27 pm

Sandra Lopez and her Chihuahua, Coco, were inseparable. He followed her everywhere, and kept Lopez's mood up when she was in pain — which was often.

On Oct. 15, 2014, Lopez died at age 49 of melanoma that had slowly spread throughout her body over the course of two years.

Lopez was in and out of the hospital in 2014, but during the months she was home, a hospice nurse from the Metropolitan Jewish Health System visited once a week to help manage the pain, backed up by a 24-hour, nurse-staffed phone line that Lopez called often.

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Children's Health
4:02 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Teens Now Reach For E-Cigarettes Over Regular Ones

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:32 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

A study of the lives of American teenagers tells us this - more of them use electronic cigarettes than smoke traditional cigarettes.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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Health
4:02 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Abuse Of Synthetic Drugs Declines Across U.S.

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 1:46 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Goats and Soda
3:33 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

India's New Comic Book Hero Fights Rape, Rides On The Back Of A Tiger

The comic book superhero Priya survived a rape and now fights violence against women.
Courtesy of Ram Devineni

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 5:46 pm

Two years ago this day, a 23-year-old woman was brutally gang-raped on a moving bus in New Delhi. Three days later she died from her injuries. The incident pushed millions in the city and all over India to protest the widespread violence against women. The protests led to tougher laws and empowered women to stand up against sexual violence.

And one man was inspired to create a comic book superhero.

Ram Devineni, a New York-based filmmaker, gave life to Priya, a survivor of gang rape who seeks to stop violence against women.

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Shots - Health News
2:58 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

When You Burn Off That Fat, Where Does It Go?

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 9:25 am

Lose weight and those pounds shuffle off, unmourned. Good riddance. Please don't come back soon.

But where does weight go when we lose it?

We talk about burning off fat, and it does burn in a way, going through a complex biochemical process. But mass can't be created or destroyed, so the atoms that made the triglycerides that plumped up the love handles have got to be somewhere.

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Goats and Soda
1:52 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

A Game Of Ludo Helps Liberians Catch A Break From Ebola

Residents of New Georgia Signboard, a small village just north of Monrovia, pass the time by playing a fast-paced board game called Ludo.
John W. Poole/NPR

The president of Liberia is in town. She's about to launch her Ebola Must Go! Campaign in the dusty village of New Georgia Signboard.

But three residents sitting on chairs that are arranged in the middle of a red dirt walk not far from the ceremony are are oblivious to the hubbub. They're busy playing the fast-moving board game of Ludo.

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Shots - Health News
12:21 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Scientists Debate If It's OK To Make Viruses More Dangerous In The Lab

The coronavirus responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome (green particles) seen on camel cells in a scanning electron micrograph.
NIAID/Colorado State University

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 3:26 pm

Imagine that scientists wanted to take Ebola virus and see if it could ever become airborne by deliberately causing mutations in the lab and then searching through those new viruses to see if any spread easily through the air.

Would that be OK?

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Goats and Soda
11:12 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Dengue Fever Strikes Millions. Now Scientists Hope To Strike Back

The dengue virus has an icosahedral shape, similar to the pattern on a soccer ball. Antibodies stop the virus by binding to its surface.
Laguna Design Science Source

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 2:19 pm

Dengue — aka "breakbone fever" — has been a tough nut to crack when it comes to making a vaccine.

The problem is that the mosquito-borne virus comes in four flavors, or strains. Vaccines that work on one strain haven't worked well on the others.

Now scientists at Imperial College London have discovered a potential way around this problem.

Immunologist Gavin Screaton and his colleagues have found molecules — specifically antibodies — in human blood that stop all forms of dengue.

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Shots - Health News
7:22 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Few Employers Cover Egg Freezing For Women With Cancer

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 7:56 am

As some companies add egg freezing to their list of fertility benefits, they're touting the coverage as a family-friendly perk.

Women's health advocates say they welcome any expansion of fertility coverage. But they say that the much-publicized changes at a few high-profile companies such as Facebook and Apple are still relatively rare, even for women with serious illnesses like cancer who want to preserve their fertility.

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Shots - Health News
2:28 am
Tue December 16, 2014

Alaska's Governor Eager To Expand Medicaid

Valerie Davidson was appointed health commissioner by Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker to help him expand Medicaid in the state. She'll look for middle ground with Republicans to get it done, she says.
Lori Townsend/Alaska Public Media

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 6:31 am

Alaska's new governor won his election in one of the tightest races in the country, a race that was too close to call even a week after election night. Bill Walker, who ran as an independent (unaffiliated with the Republicans or Democrats), took office on Dec. 1, after campaigning on the promise that he would expand Medicaid as one of his first orders of business.

To make good on that, he'll have to face a Republican-controlled legislature that hasn't been willing to even consider the idea.

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The Two-Way
5:44 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

The U.S. Has A Surgeon General, For The First Time In 17 Months

More than a year after he was nominated, Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the next surgeon general Monday. Back in February, Murthy testified about his nomination before a Senate panel.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 6:14 pm

A job that's been open in President Obama's administration since July of 2013 was finally filled Monday, as the Senate voted to confirm Vivek Murthy as America's new surgeon general.

The tally was 51-43, ending a confirmation process that began after Obama nominated Murthy to the post in November of 2013 — yes, that's one year ago.

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