Health Desk

Goats and Soda
1:35 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Is HIV Evolving Into A Weaker Virus?

HIV is like a jack-in-the-box: When it binds to a cell, its shell (yellow) pops open, and its genetic material (reds) comes out.
Eye of Science Science Source

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 2:05 pm

Viruses are masters at mutating.

So the big concern with deadly viruses, like Ebola and hepatitis C, is that they will evolve into more dangerous forms over time.

It looks like just the opposite is happening with HIV — although it's happening slowly.

"HIV can generate any mutation in the book, on any day," says virologist Philip Goulder at the University of Oxford.

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Goats and Soda
1:20 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Startling Statistic: Only 8 Patients In Largest Ebola Hospital

A health care worker wheels a stack of freshly washed boots to ELWA 3 Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia.
John W Poole NPR

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 4:04 pm

Sometimes you stumble across statistics that just scream at you. I was looking this week through some reports on the Liberian Ministry of Health's website. The screaming statistic was an "8" listed as the number of people "currently in treatment" at the ELWA 3 Ebola treatment unit run by Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia.

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Shots - Health News
11:21 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Want To Perk Up Your Love Life? Put Away That Smartphone

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 6:45 pm

Are you reading this after a long day's work, lounging in bed with the love of your life?

If so, I promise I won't feel bad if you stash the phone to take some time to talk in real life.

But if you're still reading, you're probably not alone — 70 percent of women in a recent survey said smartphones were interfering in their romantic relationship.

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Africa
4:17 am
Wed December 3, 2014

U.N. Team Strives To Reach Ebola Emergency Response Goals

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 6:41 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Around the Nation
4:05 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Texas Death Row Case Draws Attention To Mentally Ill Convicts

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 6:41 am

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

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The legal process is scheduled to end in Texas today for Scott Panetti. He's a convicted killer set for execution. He's drawn worldwide attention because he has a 36-year history of chronic schizophrenia. From Dallas, NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.

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Shots - Health News
2:24 am
Wed December 3, 2014

CDC Considers Counseling Males Of All Ages On Circumcision

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 7:18 am

Draft federal recommendations don't usually raise eyebrows, but this one certainly will — that males of all ages, including teenage boys, should be counseled on the health benefits of circumcision.

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men's risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men's risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus.

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Goats and Soda
4:57 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

One Village's Story: How Ebola Began And How It Ends

Each day, a nurse comes to this clearing outside Taylortown, Liberia, to sing a song of mourning, preparing the space for the next burial. So far nearly 100 people are interred here.
Kelly McEvers NPR

Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 11:37 am

There's a clearing in the jungle in central Liberia that now serves as an Ebola burial ground. Every day, a woman who works as a nurse in the nearby Ebola treatment unit, or ETU, changes from her scrubs into traditional dress, walks into that clearing and sings a song of mourning.

The song is meant to prepare the space for the dead. There is a burial every day. So far, nearly 100 people have been buried in this clearing. Sixteen are from one village about 45 minutes away, a place called Taylortown, or Taylata in the local dialect.

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Shots - Health News
4:43 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

FDA Considers Allowing Blood Donations From Some Gay Men

Several countries, including Australia, Japan and Great Britain, already encourage blood donations from some gay men.
Kevin Curtis Getty Images/Science Photo Library

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 10:50 am

The Food and Drug Administration is considering revising a ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with other men.

An FDA advisory committee Tuesday mulled the issues raised by changing the policy, which has been in effect since the early 1980s.

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Global Health
3:18 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Ebola Knocked West African Countries Off Development Ladder

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:24 pm

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

Shots - Health News
2:48 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Allergists Urge Use Of Epinephrine For Allergy Emergencies

People with severe allergies often carry an epinephrine pen to stop life-threatening reactions.
Paul Rapson Science Source

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 3:50 pm

An epinephrine injection can be life-saving for someone with a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, a peanut or a piece of shrimp. But just half of internal medicine doctors know that epinephrine should be the first treatment, a recent study finds.

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Shots - Health News
9:55 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Government Says Bosses Can't Force Workers To Get Health Tests

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 7:33 am

Do it or else. Increasingly, that's the message from employers who are offering financial incentives to workers who take part in wellness programs that include screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index.

But the programs are under fire from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit against Honeywell International in October charging that the company's wellness program isn't voluntary and thus violates federal law.

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Global Health
4:06 am
Tue December 2, 2014

President Hopes To Draw Attention, And Funding, To Ebola Research

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 6:44 am

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

Shots - Health News
2:54 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Obamacare 'Glitch' Puts Subsidies Out Of Reach For Many Families

Don Benfield is trying to get health care coverage for his family. The options at work are too expensive, but his employer's option disqualifies him from Affordable Care Act subsidies.
Courtesy of Don Benfield

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 7:50 am

Don Benfield of Taylorsville, N.C., makes $11 an hour working for a mobile-home parts business, selling things like replacement doors and windows.

Benfield, 51, doesn't have health insurance.

"I haven't had health care insurance in years, simply because I haven't been able to afford it, especially with food prices, how they went up," he explains.

Benfield's employer does offer health insurance coverage, even though, with fewer than 50 employees, the business is not required to.

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The Salt
2:42 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Of Carrots And Kids: Healthy School Lunches That Don't Get Tossed

Samples of carrots cooked three ways are placed on a table for the kids at Walker-Jones Educational Campus, in Washington, D.C., to sample after they have finished lunch. The crowd favorite will later end up on the school lunch menu.
Claire Eggers NPR

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 9:50 am

You can lead a child to vegetables, but can you make her eat them?

A child, for instance, like Salem Tesfaye, a first-grader at Walker-Jones Educational Campus in Washington, D.C. Tesfaye picked up a lunch today that's full of nutrition: chicken in a whole-wheat wrap, chopped tomatoes and lettuce from local farms, a slice of cantaloupe and milk.

But, she confesses, sometimes she throws her lunch out. I ask her what she did today. "I threw all of it away," she says softly.

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Goats and Soda
2:37 am
Tue December 2, 2014

If Everybody Had An Ocean, Could We Surf Our Way To Mental Health?

They're not just surfing for fun. Youngsters in Cape Town's Waves for Change are facing mental health problems. With the help of a surfing mentor and a counselor, they can learn how to cope.
Anders Kelto NPR

Originally published on Sun January 4, 2015 3:20 pm

Lwandile Mntanywa is zipping up his wet suit. The tall, soft-spoken high school junior comes to Cape Town's Monwabisi Beach almost every day after school and starts running when he sees the water. "I can see the waves are cooking, I will run fast as I can," says the 18-year-old.

Before he began surfing, he was running as fast as he could — in the wrong direction.

Mntanywa grew up in a shack just up the road. For him, childhood meant dealing with a terrible secret. His dad was physically and emotionally abusing his mom — usually while drunk.

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The Salt
4:32 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Feeling Like A Holiday Glutton? It May Be Time To Try A Fast

Nothing: It's what's for dinner.
Meredith Rizzo NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 4:00 pm

Before this season of overindulgence freights us with unwanted pounds or a glutton's guilt complex, why not try the opposite of the holiday feast: the fast.

Fasting need not be a punishing, multiday ordeal of deprivation. Increasingly, scientists are warming to the intermittent fast, which can be as brief as one skipped meal once or twice a week.

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Goats and Soda
3:24 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Your Odds Of Surviving Cancer Depend Very Much On Where You Live

Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue is lit up in pink as part of a campaign for breast cancer awareness. The country's survival rate for the disease is improving.
Felipe Dana AP

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 6:18 pm

In the United States, 9 out of 10 kids diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia will live. In Jordan, the survival rate is 16 percent.

And while cervical cancer patients have a five-year survival rate of over 70 percent in countries like Mauritius and Norway, the rate in Libya is under 40 percent.

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Goats and Soda
11:29 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Ebola In The Air: What Science Says About How The Virus Spreads

Viruses can spread through the air in two ways: inside large droplets that fall quickly to the ground (red), or inside tiny droplets that float in the air (gray). In the first route, called droplet transmission, the virus can spread only about 3 to 6 feet from an infected person. In the second route, called airborne transmission, the virus can travel 30 feet or more.
Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 7:58 am

Here's an Ebola puzzle for you: If the virus isn't airborne, why do doctors and nurses need to wear full protective suits, with face masks, while treating patients?

After we dug through studies and talked to scientists, the answer slowly emerged.

Ebola does spread through the air. But not through the airborne route.

Oh, goodness! No wonder there's been such a kerfuffle about how the virus is transmitted.

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Shots - Health News
10:10 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Doctors Warn That Soft Bedding Puts Babies At Risk

The use of infant bedding by mother's age, between 1993 and 2010. Data provided by the National Infant Sleep Position Study.
Alison Bruzek NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 2:15 pm

While blankets, pillows and quilts sound like the makings of a cozy bed for an adult, they can be downright dangerous in an infant's crib.

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Goats and Soda
7:45 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Mr. Right Won't Get Lost, Knows How To Pack Bags In A Trunk

A couple from Namibia's Twe tribe outside their home. Tribe members took part in a study that examined the relationship between navigation skills and mating success.
Layne Vashro/University of Utah

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 1:32 pm

Men seem to have an uncanny knack for loading a half-dozen suitcases and knapsacks into even the smallest compact car, turning the bags like puzzle pieces to arrive at the most efficient fit.

Many men also can get behind the wheel and, even if they get a little lost, manage to steer the car in the right general direction.

Now anthropologists have shown in a new study that, as humans evolved, men with the best spatial skills and navigational aptitude could travel great distances, have children with multiple mates and thus pass on those skills to future generations.

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Shots - Health News
2:40 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Broken Hips: Preventing A Fall Can Save Your Life

Joyce Powell, 80, attends an exercise class at UT-Arlington with her husband, Thomas (right). Powell says she feels more confident in getting around and traveling since taking the classes.
Dane Walters KERA

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 5:02 pm

Last October, Jeanette Mariani was an independent 87-year-old, living alone in Dallas and getting around with a walker. Then one night she switched off the light and tried to make her way into bed. A chair was in the way. And she fell.

"There I was, lying on the floor," she recalled. "I pulled down one of my pillows. I didn't reach very high, just pulled it down, put my head down on it and thought: 'Well, I'll wait until morning.' "

The next day, she called for help.

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Parallels
2:35 am
Mon December 1, 2014

German Government May Say 'Nein' To After Work Emails

German Chancellor Angela Merkel uses a mobile phone during a meeting of the German federal parliament in Berlin, on Nov. 28, 2013. The country's labor minister supports a call that would prohibit employers from sending emails to employees after normal business hours.
Michael Sohn AP

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

All of us are familiar with the sound a smartphone makes when an email or text has arrived. Our somewhat Pavlovian response is to pick up the device, see who the message is from and read it.

In Germany, a growing number of these emails come from the boss contacting employees after work. That's not healthy, say experts on work-related stress, including psychologist Gerdamarie Schmitz in Berlin, who is feeling the technological encroachment herself.

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Global Health
4:29 pm
Sun November 30, 2014

Campaign Rallies Resume In Liberia, Raising Uncertainty Over Ebola Risk

Supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change party take part in a meeting in Monorovia on Nov. 20 for the opening of political campaign activities for senatorial elections. Elections are due to take place on Dec. 16, after being suspended because of the Ebola epidemic.
Zoom Dosso AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 11:54 am

In Liberia, the number of new cases of Ebola is going down, but the risk has not been eliminated. To help contain the disease, schools are set to be closed until March.

But a national Senate election, which was postponed once, is now set for mid-December. That means campaigning — which means crowds.

Back in August and September, when a hundred people were getting Ebola a day, Monrovia was a ghost town. Ebola treatment units were full and regular hospitals were closed. Some people died in the streets. A lot of people stayed home.

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Asia
7:07 am
Sun November 30, 2014

Workers Brave Militant Attacks To Vaccinate For Polio

Originally published on Sun November 30, 2014 11:44 am

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

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Shots - Health News
4:40 am
Sun November 30, 2014

For Some Uninsured, Simply Signing Up Is A Challenge

Leaburn Alexander works two jobs and does not have health insurance. It takes him three hours to commute home from the job he works as an overnight hotel janitor.
Lisa Morehouse/KQED

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 3:31 pm

When the Affordable Care Act rolled out last year, Californians enrolled in both Covered California and expanded Medicaid in high numbers. But there are still millions in the state without health insurance. Undocumented people don't qualify for Obamacare benefits. And many others still find coverage too expensive — or face other obstacles in enrolling.

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All Tech Considered
6:46 am
Sat November 29, 2014

In 'Disaster City,' Learning To Use Robots To Face Ebola

Since it was built by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service in 1998, 90,000 emergency responders have come to "Disaster City" to climb over mangled steel and through derailed chemical trains.
Lauren Silverman KERA

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 11:05 am

About three hours southeast of Dallas, there's a city that's been hit by almost every disaster you could imagine including earthquakes, hurricanes and even bombs. It's appropriately called Disaster City.

It's a training site for first responders, but the facility is looking ahead to a different kind of disaster — infectious diseases like Ebola, and robots may play a key role.

One of the first things you see when you enter Disaster City is an enormous pile of rubble.

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Shots - Health News
6:46 am
Sat November 29, 2014

School District Pays For Health Care But Can't Get Itemized Bill

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho of Miami-Dade County Public Schools says he knows how much gets paid out in health care claims, but the school system's insurance carrier, Cigna, won't disclose the charges.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 3:20 pm

About a year ago at a Miami-Dade County school board meeting, superintendent Alberto Carvalho was happy to announce the district and the teacher's union had just ratified a new contract.

"I believe that this contract honors and dignifies what you do every single day," he told the school board members. It included bonuses for most teachers and it settled how to handle health care expenses after yet another year of rising costs.

"We know exactly what the district pays out in terms of claims, because we are the insurance company. There's no profit to be made," he said.

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Shots - Health News
4:37 am
Sat November 29, 2014

Why The ER Doctor Asks Patients What's Happening At Home

Maria Fabrizio for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 2:15 pm

When people hear that I'm an emergency physician, they often ask, "What's the craziest thing you've ever seen?"

TV shows frequently show ER doctors and nurses heroically saving people on the verge of death. Then there are news reports about people abusing the health care system by seeking emergency care for minor problems that could be better handled in a doctor's office.

I see those things. But the extremes don't paint a full picture of the urban ER that is the center of my working life. So allow me to introduce you to some of the people I saw in the ER on a recent day.

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Goats and Soda
4:36 am
Sat November 29, 2014

What Should You Do If A Fly Gets Into Your Anti-Ebola Goggles?

Among the dilemmas that arise when health workers are in their protective garb: What if you can't find the person assigned to be your Ebola Treatment Unit partner?
John W. Poole NPR

So you're in Ebola treatment clinic. Your body is covered head-to-toe in a plastic protective suit, a hood, goggles, gloves and rubber boots. Then, all of a sudden, your nose itches.

What should you do?

Or what happens if you need to pee? Or a fly infiltrates your goggles?

In this second installment drawn from the World Health Organization training manual for Ebola healthcare workers, we look at the routine hazards that suddenly don't seem so routine in a treatment center.

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Shots - Health News
8:03 am
Fri November 28, 2014

Eyeing That BB Gun For Christmas? Don't Go There, Doctors Say

In the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, all Ralphie wanted was a BB gun.
The Kobal Collection/MGM/UA

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 6:59 am

If you've seen the classic movie A Christmas Story, you know that Ralphie really, really wanted that BB gun. And you know that his mother, his teacher, even the department store Santa all said: "You'll shoot your eye out."

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