Health Desk

It's difficult to imagine that a seven-story glass building will soon take the place of what's now a vast hole near the corner of Carnegie Avenue and 105th Street in Cleveland. But Cliff Kazmierczak, who is with Turner Construction and overseeing the transformation, points to the gray sky, tracing a silhouette with his fingertips. In two years, he says, the Cleveland Clinic's nearly $300 million cancer center is slated to open here.

Upscale grocery store chain Whole Foods (often referred to as "Whole Paycheck" because of its high prices) announced this week that it's launching a new offshoot brand — with lower prices — to appeal to younger, millennial shoppers.

Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, says it will be a "uniquely branded store concept unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace" with "value prices ... a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection."

Back in the 1960s, the U.S. started vaccinating kids for measles. As expected, children stopped getting measles.

But something else happened.

Childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted. Even deaths from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were cut by half.

Scientists saw the same phenomenon when the vaccine came to England and parts of Europe. And they see it today when developing countries introduce the vaccine.

Let's Talk About Death Over Dinner

May 7, 2015

On a recent evening in San Francisco, five guests gather at the home of Eric Weinstein and his wife, Pia Malaney, for a tasty dinner of seared salmon and a deep discussion of a topic that many people might find unpalatable: death.

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

Here's something that might sound strange: There are companies now that print and sell DNA.

This trend — which uses the term "print" in the sense of making a bunch of copies speedily — is making particular stretches of DNA much cheaper and easier to obtain than ever before. That excites many scientists who are keen to use these tailored strings of genetic instructions to do all sorts of things, ranging from finding new medical treatments to genetically engineering better crops.

When a friend or loved one gets sick — really, seriously sick — it's hard to know what to say. So some of us say nothing. Which seems better than saying the wrong thing, though people do that too.

Los Angeles graphic designer Emily McDowell's solution to this dilemma are what she calls Empathy Cards. When someone is seriously ill, she says, the usual "Get Well Soon" won't do. Because you might not, she says. At least not soon.

Ebola virus has once again figured out how to surprise and confound humans. It attacked the eyes of a doctor weeks after he had been deemed cured and virus-free.

The doctor, 43-year-old Ian Crozier, had contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone and was flown back to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta last September, desperately ill.

When it comes to cancer, the right screening test at the right time can go a long way toward catching the disease while it can be stopped.

But many Americans aren't getting recommended screening tests for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer. In fact, there's been a notable lack of progress in reaching national screening goals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In just two days, Liberia will celebrate what seemed an impossible dream last summer: the end of its Ebola outbreak.

Saturday, May 9 will mark the 42nd day of no new Ebola cases in the country. A person with Ebola typically shows symptoms within 21 days of exposure. But the World Health Organization adds an extra 21 days for extra caution before declaring that an outbreak has ended. So on Saturday, WHO officials and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will announce that Liberia is Ebola-free.

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

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In a leafy suburb of Cleveland, 108-year-old Lakewood Hospital is expected to close in the next two years, for economic reasons. Mike Summers points to the fourth-floor windows on the far left side of the historic brick building. He recalls spending three weeks in one of those rooms. It was Christmas 1965 and Summers had a broken hip.

"I remember hearing Christmas bells from the church across the street," he says.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott paid a high-stakes visit to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, in hopes of persuading the Obama administration to continue a program that sends more than $1 billion in federal funds to Florida each year to help reimburse hospitals for the costs of caring for the state's poor. Uncertainty about the future of the program, slated to end June 30, has created a hole in the state budget and paralyzed Florida's legislature.

Recovering from pneumonia is an unusual experience in the 10-bed intensive care unit at the Carolinas HealthCare System hospital in rural Lincolnton, N.C.

The small hospital has its regular staff, but Richard Gilbert, one of the ICU patients, has an extra nurse who is 45 miles away. That nurse, Cassie Gregor, sits in front of six computer screens in an office building. She wears a headset and comes into Gilbert's room via a computer screen.

Scientists have discovered a group of microbes at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean that could provide new clues to how life went from being simple to complex.

Smartphones aren't simply an amazing convenience. In Africa they can be used to make a lifesaving diagnosis. In fact, scientists are hoping to use a souped-up smartphone microscope to help them eradicate a devastating disease called river blindness.

Onchocerciasis, as the disease is also known, is caused by a parasite that's spread by flies. Thirty years ago, it was simply devastating in parts of Africa, like Mali.

This news may feel like day-old bread, but here goes: Panera Bread is shaking up the fast-casual eatery world with its announcement to ditch more than 150 food additives by the end of 2016.

Butter (arguably) makes everything better – even tea. For Chime Dhorje, who works at Café Himalaya in New York City, the butter in the cup of tea before him ideally comes from a yak.

Yak butter tea is often referred to as the national drink of Dhorje's homeland, Tibet. Tibetans drink it all day long — up to 60 cups a day, it's said — though they're not the only ones who enjoy it: It's consumed in countries throughout the Himalayas.

The first genetically modified crop wasn't made by a megacorporation. Or a college scientist trying to design a more durable tomato. Nope. Nature did it — at least 8,000 years ago.

Well, actually bacteria in the soil were the engineers. And the microbe's handiwork is present in sweet potatoes all around the world today.

Infections with the bacteria Clostridium difficile are a big problem, killing 29,000 people a year. Many of those people got infected while in the hospital. And antibiotics often don't work.

So how about this: Take spores from a harmless version of C. difficile and use them to fight off the bad bugs?

That's just what researchers at the VA hospital in Hines, Ill., did.

Lately, Californians have been focused on a measles outbreak that got its start at Disneyland. But in the past five years, state health officials have declared epidemics of whooping cough twice — in 2010 and in 2014, when 11,000 people were sickened and three infants died.

Two months into my first pregnancy, I suffered a miscarriage and needed to seek medical care.

Although a miscarriage is difficult for any woman to experience, I had access to the best care. My physician was excellent, I trusted her judgment, and the imaging equipment, laboratory facilities and clinical care were all first-rate.

That's not surprising — except that I was then living in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, the capital city of one of India's poorest states.

A hospital closure can send tremors through a city or town, leaving residents fearful about how they will be cared for in emergencies and serious illnesses.

A study released Monday offers some comfort, finding that when hospitals shut down, death rates and other markers of quality generally don't worsen.

The interviewer asks the fresh-faced young woman named Irene: "What do you do here in this village?"

"I am a prostitute," she says.

Over the last week, Baltimore's unrest has captured the nation's attention. Images of burning cars, the sounds of angry protesters and then peace rallies have dominated the airwaves and headlines.

Parents worry about a child getting a concussion in the heat of competition, but they also need to be thinking about what happens during practices, a study finds.

High school and college football players are more likely to suffer a concussion during practices than in a game, according a study published May 4 in JAMA Pediatrics. Here are the numbers:

  • In youth games, 54 percent of concussions happened during games.

If you ran down the list of ailments that most commonly kill Americans, chances are you wouldn't think to name sepsis. But this condition, sometimes called blood poisoning, is in fact one of the most common causes of death in the hospital, killing more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Jennifer Rodgers learned about sepsis the way many people do — through personal experience.

A month after her father died of sepsis, Jennifer Rodgers began creating maps.

She took a large piece of paper, splattered it with black paint and then tore it into pieces. Then she began to draw: short black lines mimic the steps she walked in the hospital hallway during her father's hospitalization.

"It was a physical release of emotion for me," she says.

Vaccines don't always make it into the people who need them the most. Many require a syringe and a needle to enter the bloodstream and create immunity. And that means a doctor or nurse has to do the job.

Liberia is nearing a milestone. On May 9, its Ebola outbreak will be officially declared over, assuming no new cases between now and then.

But what happens when an outbreak of Ebola ends?

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