Health Desk

Starting today, 155 countries and territories will start switching to a different polio vaccine.

The shift, which is expected to be completed by May 1, is the "largest and fastest globally coordinated rollout of a vaccine into routine immunization programs in history," according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Imagine this. You're a 15-year-old student in a remote village with maybe a couple of hundred residents, miles from the nearest town. There's no TV. Cellphone service is spotty. The dirt road to your village floods regularly. Your link to the outside world is the family wind-up radio.

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A Baby Boom In A Refugee Camp Is A Mixed Blessing

Apr 16, 2016

After their first child was born in 2014, Mohammed Salameh, 22, and his wife Khoulod Ahmad Suleiman, 21, planned to throw a small party for family and friends with walnuts and cups of hot cinnamon, as is customary in their hometown of Dara'a in southwestern Syria.

But when they learned that a cousin in Syria had been killed in fighting the same day, they cancelled the festivities.

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When it comes to the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies, bacteria get almost all the attention.

Foods made with corn masa flour — like tortillas, tacos and tamales — could soon play a critical role in the health of babies born to Latina mothers in the U.S.

That's because, as of today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now allowing manufacturers to fortify their corn masa foods with folic acid. That's a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin that helps prevent severe defects of the brain and spinal cord when consumed by women before and early in pregnancy.

It was a hospital — but to psychologist Inka Weissbecker it looked more like a prison. She had come to South Sudan to check out the country's only health facility for treating patients with mental illness.

"There was a hallway leading past these cells with bars on them," she recalls. "Behind one set of bars I saw a mattress covered in plastic. And on it was urine and feces — and this woman lying with her face to the wall. I don't know if she was dead or just sleeping. Nobody seemed to care."

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Doctors know it's important to talk with their patients about end-of-life care.

But they're finding it tough to start those conversations. When they do, they're not sure what to say, according to a national poll released Thursday.

Zika's arrival in the U.S. this summer seems almost inevitable, health officials keep saying.

The virus has already touched down in northern Mexico and Puerto Rico. And just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of states with virus-carrying mosquitoes was larger than previously thought.

So the looming question is: Once Zika is here, how big will the outbreak be?

Step into Mike Moon's Madison, Wis., coffee roasting plant and the aroma of beans — from Brazil to Laos — immediately washes over you.

Moon says he aims to run an efficient and safe plant — and that starts the minute beans spill out of the roaster. He points to a cooling can that is "designed to draw air from the room over the beans and exhausts that air out of the facility. So it is really grabbing a lot of all of the gases coming off the coffee," he explains.

Jordin Purcell-Riess has worked as a registered nurse at the emergency department at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., for three years. She describes her workplace as phones going off, voices everywhere, every room full. "You look around and the hallways are full of patients on stretchers; you walk out to the waiting room and you can see on our board that there's 15 people signing in," she says. "The second you can get your ICU patient upstairs, there's another one waiting for you."

An injured worker featured in an NPR/ProPublica investigation of the opt-out alternative to workers' compensation has settled with the company that denied her medical care and wage-replacement payments after an incident at work.

The Canadian government has introduced a long-awaited bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

The measure limits the option to the incurably ill, requires medical approval and mandates a 15-day waiting period. It identifies the practice as "medically assistance in dying," as distinguished from suicide.

When 276 girls were forced at gunpoint from their dormitory beds at a school in Chibok, Nigeria, on April 14, 2014, it sparked the creation of #BringBackOurGirls. The campaign, originating in Nigeria, became a global sensation as it pressured the Nigerian government and world leaders to rescue the girls from their Boko Haram kidnappers.

Could swallowing the eggs of a parasitic worm help treat a disease?

It might just work in some cases, according to the work of P'ng Loke and Ken Cadwell, two researchers at New York University who study parasites and the immune system.

In January, a man returned home to Dallas after a weeklong trip to Venezuela. Two days later he got a fever, a rash on his upper body and face, and pinkeye.

He was fine within three days. But about a week later, his partner developed similar symptoms — a rash, pinkeye and some joint pain in his hands and feet.

He went to the doctor's office, and a clever physician assistant thought of Zika virus.

Chicago's North Broadway Street is always bustling, but in the past few weeks, it has been noisier than ever. There is water flowing from an open fire hydrant, and as traffic inches by, a cement truck backs up and pours concrete down into a big hole in the street.

"Well, we always say there's two seasons: either winter and construction," says Maureen Martino, the executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. This water main upgrade is only the beginning; Martino says the city has plenty more scheduled for the area this year.

There's a stealthy nighttime battle taking place on the African savannah. It's a place where poachers stalk their prey — the animals that graze there. And they, the poachers, are in turn stalked by rangers trying to bring them in.

Now those rangers are trying out some new equipment using the kind of technology pioneered by the military.

After months of hesitation, U.S. health officials now say that the Zika virus is indeed the cause of severe brain damage in the infants of some women who were infected with the virus during pregnancy.

A CDC review published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine describes evidence of what U.S. health officials now call a causal relationship between the virus and a severe form of microcephaly and intracranial calcifications.

Developing countries got $131 billion in official aid in 2015.

And they got $431.6 billion in remittances — money sent home by migrants who are working abroad.

Ian Burkhart, now 24, was paralyzed in 2010 after diving into a wave in shallow water. The accident left him with some arm movement but no use of his hands.

On a cold windy morning, Kelly Nissen feeds the cows at the Iowa State University Beef Nutrition Farm. He weighs out specific rations and carefully delivers them to numbered feed bunks.

"When you're feeding, you're always double-checking yourself to make sure it's going in the right lot," Nissen says. It's important — because these cows munch on more than just the common mix of hay, corn and distiller's grain. They're also charged with testing out different formulas developed by the researchers in the animal science department at Iowa State.

In India, rape is illegal. And the definition of what constitutes "rape" was widened only recently in response to a horrific fatal assault in New Delhi in 2012. Forced penetration by any object in any orifice is now a crime.

Despite this law, some men in India can have sex with a woman against her will. That's because Parliament chose to exempt husbands.

This decision — which makes India one of 49 nations that don't criminalize marital rape — has come under fire from women's rights advocates around the globe.

Some users of LSD say one of the most profound parts of the experience is a deep oneness with the universe. The hallucinogenic drug might be causing this by blurring boundaries in the brain, too.

Are you ready for some more uncertainty about blood pressure treatment?

Decisions about blood pressure have gotten more difficult over the past couple of years as experts in the U.S. have failed to reach consensus on recommendations about when drug therapy should be started. Now there's new evidence that could make the decisions even more challenging.

Cody Pedersen and his wife, Inyan, know that in an emergency they will have to wait for help to arrive.

Cody, 29, and his family live in Cherry Creek, a Native American settlement within the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in north central South Dakota.

The reservation is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. But Cherry Creek has no general store, no gas station and few jobs.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Cody Pedersen and his wife, Inyan, know that in an emergency they will have to wait for help to arrive.

Cody, 29, and his family live in Cherry Creek, a Native American settlement within the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in north central South Dakota.

The reservation is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. But Cherry Creek has no general store, no gas station and few jobs.

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