Health Desk

An outbreak of a deadly virus in South Korea has set off alarms across the region.

In the past week, South Korea's confirmed cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome have more than tripled to 41, with at least three deaths. About 1,600 people are quarantined and more than 1,000 schools are closed.

It's the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia. And researchers around the world have been trying to figure out why the outbreak in South Korea has gotten so large, so fast.

Now researchers have a clue: a superspreader event.

Daily Table opened its doors Thursday with shelves full of surplus and aging food.

The nonprofit grocery store is in the low-to-middle income Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. It's selling canned vegetables two for $1 and a dozen eggs for 99 cents. Potatoes are 49 cents a pound. Bananas are 29 cents a pound.

"That's good. It's cheap! Everything good," says Noemi Sosa, a shopper marveling at the prices that — for Boston — are phenomenally low.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be harmful to the developing fetus. Pregnant women who suffer from serious depression face a difficult dilemma: Should they continue taking medication and risk unknown side-effects to the fetus, or go through their pregnancies trying to handle their depression without medication?

A new survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that sexual violence against children is a global problem.

Seven countries were surveyed from 2007 to 2013. The first was Swaziland, which wanted to assess and address the problem. The rate of sexual violence against girls was 36.7 percent. Additional countries asked to be surveyed as well. Young people from the age of 13 to 24 were interviewed, with a range of 1,000 to 2,000 for each gender.

A cheap new lab test can use just a drop of blood to reveal the different kinds of viruses you've been exposed to over your lifetime.

The test suggests that, on average, people have been infected with about ten different types of known virus families, including influenzas, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, according to a report published Thursday in Science.

It was "life-changing" for Kourtney Kardashian. Mad Men actress January Jones touted its benefits too. Tia and Tamera Mowry of the reality show Sister Sister tried it, as did Alicia Silverstone, Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, and various other celebrity moms who raved about feeling more energized, reducing their risk of depression, improving their breast milk production and a host of other supposed benefits.

But did consuming placenta in the weeks or months after birth actually have any effect?

Update 4:40 p.m.: The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted 18 to 6 to recommend that the agency approve flibanserin, as long as there are measures in place to make sure that women are aware of its risks, including low blood pressure and fainting. The FDA doesn't have to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels but usually does.


A committee of medical advisers meets Thursday to consider whether to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve the first drug that aims to boost a woman's libido.

It seems the bad news just won't stop coming.

That boat accident in China.

Parents probably don't put "check for tanning bed" when moving a child into off-campus housing. But many apartment buildings that cater to students provide free indoor tanning, a study finds.

"When my daughter went off to college, she looked at 10 apartments near her campus," said Dayna Diven, a dermatologist at the University of Texas' Dell Medical School. "All 10 of them offered residents free indoor tanning; I was shocked."

The states that set up their own insurance marketplaces have nothing to lose in King v. Burwell, the big Supreme Court case that will be decided by the end of June. But that doesn't mean those states are breathing easy.

With varying degrees of difficulty, all of the state-based exchanges are struggling to figure out how to become financially self-sufficient as the spigot of federal start-up money shuts off.

In the trial of James Holmes, prosecutors spent the first month re-creating the night of the shooting. But this isn't a question of whether Holmes killed 12 people at the midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colo. The question has always been: Was he insane at the time?

For prosecutors, detailing that night is critical in exploring Holmes' mindset. During the process, jurors watched a lengthy, videotaped psychiatric examination. It was ordered by the court after Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Should the world be in a panic about MERS?

That's the global health question of the hour. South Korea is trying to get control of an outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome. Officials have now confirmed 30 cases of the disease and two deaths. One of the patients traveled to China and remains hospitalized there. More than 1,000 people are now under quarantine in Hong Kong, China and South Korea as a result of the outbreak.

There's fear that MERS could be the next SARS, the respiratory virus that swept through the region in 2003, claiming hundreds of lives.

A federal health task force that has been criticized for its mammography recommendations now has scientific support from the World Health Organization.

The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer has just finished its review of mammography to screen for breast cancer, and it, too, concludes that the value of these screening X-rays is "limited" for women in their 40s.

Diabetes is something nurse practitioner Martha Brinsko helps a lot of patients manage at the Charlotte Community Health Clinic in North Carolina.

"Most mornings when you check your sugar, what would you say kind of the average is?" Brinsko asks Diana Coble.

Coble hesitates before explaining she ran out of what she needs to check it, and she didn't have the gas money to get back here sooner. Brinsko says Coble can get what she needs at the clinic.

"Alcohol use disorder" might not be a hashtag, and there's good reason. The term was created in 2013, when the DSM-5, the bible of mental health diagnoses, ditched the two distinct disorders of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence in favor of one term: alcohol use disorder.

What to do about the non-invasive breast lesions called ductal carcinoma in situ, or "stage zero" cancer, is one of the hottest debates in breast cancer care.

Because of more widespread screening, more and more women are being diagnosed with DCIS. The condition now makes up 20 percent of new breast cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society.

In September, the U.N. will vote to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals (aka SDGs). They cover issues like poverty, health and climate change. The idea is to encourage the 192 U.N. member states to establish policies that will make the world a better place over the next 15 years.

At least one SDG is turning out to be a bit controversial.

This particular goal calls for a reduction in "premature mortality" from non-communicable diseases like cancer, stroke and dementia by half in people younger than 50 and by a third among people from 50 to 69.

More than 1,300 people in South Korea are under mandatory quarantine as health officials scramble to contain the largest outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, outside the Arabian Peninsula. So far, at least 30 people in South Korea have contracted the virus, which has no known vaccine or cure. Two of them have died since the outbreak began May 20.

Kimberley Enyart was never interested in doing recreational drugs. But then she was in a car accident — and her doctor prescribed a powerful opiate for the pain.

"It just would put me off in la-la land, and make me feel better," she says. "I loved it. I loved that high."

When Enyart's prescription ran out, she did whatever she could to convince other doctors that she needed more. Eventually, she moved on to dentists.

"I even had two back teeth pulled over it," she says.

Imagine that you're a judge, and you're asked to decide the case brought by Mary and Dave Wildman.

Back in 1997, Mary took the couple's 1-year-old son, Nicholas, to the doctor for the combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. Right after the MMR shot, Mary says, Nicholas started crying uncontrollably.

"This was unbelievable screaming," she says.

Mary and her mom started driving Nicholas back to their home in Evans City, Pa.

South Korea is contending with the biggest Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, outbreak outside the Middle East.

It was a beautiful Saturday in the fall of 2005. The leaves in Cincinnati were changing colors, and Lisa Smith had just finished watching her son's soccer game.

She ran some errands, including something she'd been meaning to do for a week — get a flu shot. She stopped by her local pharmacy.

She didn't think about the shot again until a few days later, when she woke up feeling a bit strange. She had an odd tickle in her throat and her leg muscles were sore.

"Almost like I'd been exercising," she says.

On a recent afternoon, Brittany Combs drove a white SUV through a neighborhood at the northern end of Austin, Indiana. In the back of her vehicle, there were hundreds of sterile syringes, each in a plastic wrapper.

"Anybody need clean needles today?" she shouted out the window at people sitting on front porches or walking down the street. When Combs, a nurse with the Scott County Health Department, got takers, she made sure they had a unique ID card before opening up the hatch and handing each of them a week's worth of syringes.

For years, Suzanne Petroni, senior director at the International Center for Research on Women, would speak — backed by mountains of evidence she studies — about the number one cause of death among women around the world: maternal mortality.

Then, in September, 2014, the World Health Organization released its report on "Health for the World's Adolescents: A Second Chance in the Second Decade."

The American wing of the Young Men's Christian Association — a worldwide organization founded in London in 1844 — launched the first basketball teams and group swim lessons in the U.S., popularized exercise classes and created the oldest summer camp still in operation, the YMCA's historians tell us.

This week, I addressed a grab bag of questions related to insurance coverage of hearing aids, doctors who drop out of a plan midyear and what happens if you receive subsidies for exchange coverage but learn later on you were eligible for Medicaid all along.

My doctor is leaving my provider network in the middle of the year. Does that unexpected change mean I can switch to a new plan?

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

On a recent trip to Chicago, Patti Broyles felt like she was looking at the world from the bottom of a fish bowl.

"This weather was really cold and rainy and I had a lot of pressure in my sinus areas," Broyles says.

Since she was nowhere near her primary care doctor in Dallas, she called Teladoc, the largest telemedicine provider in the U.S., for advice. Patients whose employers or insurers have deals with the Dallas-based company can call any time and be connected with a physician on duty within minutes.

Want to eat food that's fresh, local and cooked from scratch? Consider a retirement home. Once known for bland, institutional fare, hundreds of retirement communities around the nation now tout their restaurant-like dining experiences.

One of those is Bethlehem Woods in La Grange Park, Ill. Resident Marge Healy counts on having dinner with the same group of friends every evening.

"We're almost like a family," she says, as her friends nod in agreement.

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