Health Desk

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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Goats and Soda
6:03 am
Fri November 28, 2014

Test Your Medical Smarts: Does This Patient Have Ebola?

In a training session for health workers in West Africa run by WHO, Ebola survivors play the part of Ebola victims.
John W. Poole NPR

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 9:58 am

Ebola is elusive and stealthy, so a medical degree doesn't automatically prepare a health worker to figure out if a new patient is a likely Ebola case.

The symptoms mimic other diseases. Fever, chills and vomiting could also signal malaria or maybe just a heavy night of drinking. If clinicians guess wrong, they might accidentally put an uninfected person into a treatment area with patients who have contracted the virus.

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Shots - Health News
3:21 am
Fri November 28, 2014

How Dogs Understand What We Say

Do you want to go to the park? Mango Doucleff, of San Francisco, responds to her favorite command by perking up her ears and tilting her head.
Michaeleen Doucleff NPR

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 10:42 am

Scientists — and anyone who lives with a canine — know that dogs pay close attention to the emotion in our voices. They listen for whether our tone is friendly or mean, how the pitch goes up or down and even the rhythms in our speech.

But what about the meaning of the words we say?

Sure, a few studies have reported on supersmart dogs that know hundreds of words. Chaser, a border collie in South Carolina, even learned 1,022 nouns and commands to go with them.

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Shots - Health News
8:03 am
Thu November 27, 2014

Your Adult Siblings May Be The Secret To A Long, Happy Life

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 8:03 am

Somehow we're squeezing 16 people into our apartment for Thanksgiving this year, with relatives ranging in age from my 30-year-old nephew to my 90-year-old mother. I love them all, but in a way the one I know best is the middle-aged man across the table whose blue eyes look just like mine: my younger brother Paul.

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Goats and Soda
2:50 am
Thu November 27, 2014

School For Husbands Gets Men To Talk About Family Size

They're participants in Niger's School for Husbands.
Ron Haviv/VII for NPR

Originally published on Thu November 27, 2014 12:28 pm

It's a bunch of guys sitting around talking.

About the benefits of birth control.

About how a woman should take care of herself when she's pregnant.

About breast-feeding.

You know, the kind of things guys never talk about.

There are 12 of them, sitting in a circle under a tin roof. Some wear long, colorful tunics. Their flip-flops are scattered around the outer edge of the carpet. They're part of the "School for Husbands" program in the village of Chadakori in the West African nation of Niger, the country with the highest birth rate in the world.

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Shots - Health News
2:49 am
Thu November 27, 2014

Millennial Doctors May Be More Tech-Savvy, But Is That Better?

Medical residents including Dr. Amy Ho (bottom right) helped with first aid at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.
Courtesy Amy Ho

Originally published on Sat November 29, 2014 2:04 pm

The University of Texas Southwestern class of 2014 is celebrating graduation. Class vice president Amy Ho has shed her scrubs for heels and a black dress. She says with modern technology, med school really wasn't too hard.

"If you want to do the whole thing by video stream, you can," she says. "I would wake up at 10 a.m., work out for an hour or so, get some lunch and then video stream for 6 hours and then go to happy hour. It actually was not that bad."

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Health
4:24 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Colorectal Cancer Cases Are Dropping — Except Among Young Adults

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 5:39 pm

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

Shots - Health News
12:58 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Those Phone-Obsessed Teenagers Aren't As Lonely As You Think

Loneliness may be part of the human condition, but social media don't seem to be harming teenagers' social lives.
Neil Webb Ikon Images/Corbis

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 3:58 pm

A recent dinner with my friends went something like this:

"Wait, who is going to take a Snapchat of all of us when our drinks arrive?"

"Oh no, I can't! My phone is dying."

"Guys, this is such a stereotypical millennial conversation. I am totally tweeting about this."

So I guess I understand why older folk fret that youngsters these days are losing out on authentic social connections because of social media.

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Shots - Health News
11:36 am
Wed November 26, 2014

If Supreme Court Strikes Federal Exchange Subsidies, Health Law Could Unravel

Supreme Court police stand guard during a storm in March.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 1:28 pm

Exactly what would happen to the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court invalidates tax credits in three dozen states where the federal government runs the program?

Legal scholars say a decision like that would deal a potentially lethal blow to the law because it would undermine the government-run insurance marketplaces that are its backbone, as well as the mandate requiring most Americans to carry coverage.

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Goats and Soda
11:02 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Hissing And Sighing: The Lament Of Sex Workers In Sierra Leone

On Lumley Beach, after day trippers have headed home, prostitutes look for customers along a 100-yard stretch of road near some of the nicer hotels as well as near the bars and restaurants along the beachfront.
Simon Akam Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 2:15 pm

When a man drives by the strip at Lumley Beach in downtown Freetown at night, he'll probably hear a sharp hiss. That's not an unusual sound in Sierra Leone. People hiss instead of whistling — to get your attention, to call for the bill at a restaurant, to buy a bottle of water on the street.

But the hissing along a stretch of beachfront road at Lumley Beach has a different purpose. It's the sound prostitutes make, and they've perfected the hiss. That's why they're called serpents.

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Shots - Health News
8:32 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Patient Safety Journal Finds Violations, Tightens Standards After Scandal

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 10:09 am

The aftershocks of what some have called the patient safety movement's first scandal continue to reverberate in the medical community, most recently in the current issue of the Journal of Patient Safety.

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The Salt
3:16 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Gluten-Free? Vegan? Thanksgiving Recipes For Alternative Diets

Baked Squash Kibbeh: Middle-Eastern kibbeh is a finely ground combination of beef or lamb, bulgur and onions either formed into balls and deep-fried or pressed into a pan and baked. For a vegetarian version of this flavorful dish, why not pair butternut squash with the warm spices?
Steve Klise Courtesy of America's Test Kitchen

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 11:05 am

It's like the start of a bad joke: a vegan, a gluten-free and a paleo walk into a bar — except it's your house, and they're gathered around your Thanksgiving table.

More and more Americans are passing on gluten — some for medical reasons, most by choice. Others are adopting diets that exclude meat, or insisting on the kinds of unprocessed foods that early man would have hunted and gathered.

All of this is a challenge to the traditional Thanksgiving feast.

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Goats and Soda
4:59 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Ebola Is Changing Course In Liberia. Will The U.S. Military Adapt?

A helicopter's eye view of a new ETU, funded by USAID and built by Save the Children.
Kelly McEvers NPR

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 5:31 pm

The Ebola outbreak started in rural areas, but by June it had reached Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

By August, the number of people contracting the Ebola virus in the country was doubling every week. The Liberian government and aid workers begged for help.

Enter the U.S. military, who along with other U.S. agencies had a clear plan in mid-September to build more Ebola treatment units, or ETUs. At least one would be built in the major town of each of Liberia's 15 counties. That way, sick patients in those counties wouldn't bring more Ebola to the capital.

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Shots - Health News
3:16 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Administration Warns Employers: Don't Dump Sick Workers From Plans

Agent Illustrateur Getty Images/Ikon Images

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 1:36 pm

As employers try to minimize expenses under the health law, the Obama administration has warned them against paying high-cost workers to leave the company medical plan and buy coverage elsewhere.

Such a move would unlawfully discriminate against employees based on their health status, three federal agencies said in a bulletin issued in early November.

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Shots - Health News
1:50 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Drugged Marshmallows Can Keep Urban Raccoons From Spreading Disease

Does this little guy look familiar? Clean up his feces in your yard to avoid infection from his parasites.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 11:35 am

The masked garbage crusaders of the night can be more than just a nuisance. Raccoons also can be bad news for human health, carrying diseases such as rabies and roundworms.

And because raccoons have happily colonized cities and suburbs, a particular roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis that the critters often carry can make its way into humans. The parasite's eggs are carried in raccoon poop.

When ingested, the eggs release the worm, which can burrow into the eyes and brain causing blindness or even death, in rare cases.

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Shots - Health News
12:16 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Treatment For HIV Runs Low In U.S., Despite Diagnosis

A pharmacist pours Truvada pills, an HIV treatment, back into the bottle at Jack's Pharmacy in San Anselmo, Calif.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 11:35 am

About two-thirds of Americans who are infected with the virus that causes AIDS aren't getting treated for it.

The finding comes from an analysis just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that more needs to be done to make sure people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus get proper treatment.

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Shots - Health News
10:25 am
Tue November 25, 2014

How Can Vultures Eat Rotten Roadkill And Survive?

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 2:31 pm

You might wonder why 48 million Americans get food poisoning every year, yet there are some animals that seem to be immune from even the nastiest germs.

We're talking here about vultures, which feast on rotting flesh that is chockablock with bacteria that would be deadly to human beings. In fact, vultures have a strong preference for that kind of food.

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Shots - Health News
8:52 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Turning 21? Here's How To Avoid A Big Hike In Health Premiums

Originally published on Tue November 25, 2014 10:55 am

For young people, turning 21 is generally a reason to celebrate.

If they're insured through the federal health insurance marketplace that operates in about three-dozen states, however, their birthday could mean a whopping 58 percent jump in their health insurance premium in 2015, according to an analysis by researchers at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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