Health Desk

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In the 1980s and '90s, many doctors told women going through menopause that they should take female hormones — estrogen and progestin — to alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and sleep problems. The hormone therapy was thought to have other benefits, too, like preventing broken bones, colon cancer and heart attacks.

For some people with Lyme disease, the illness seems to take a lasting toll.

Years after a standard two-week course of antibiotics against Borrellia burgdorferi or closely related organisms that cause the disease, these patients remain exhausted and foggy-headed. They suffer from chronic aches and pains and poor sleep.

Amanda Vinicky

It had been a long time coming, but Illinois' pilot program for medical marijuana has finally kicked off last November. It's been slow growing for the industry so far, and there are many restrictions.  The business HCI Alternatives has two medical marijuana dispensaries in the state now. 

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The FDA has updated the labeling for the abortion-inducing drug Mifeprex, allowing it to be taken at a lower dose and with fewer visits to the doctor's office.

The change brings the drug's label into alignment with common medical practice in 47 states — and will make the drug more accessible to women in three states, where lawmakers had required doctors to prescribe the drug according to the original label.

Mifeprex is the brand name for mifepristone, also known as RU-486. (It's not related to the emergency contraceptive known as the morning-after pill, or Plan B.)

Just how, exactly, could we wipe out a species of mosquito?

That's the question some of our readers wanted to know after reading our story that pondered the fate of the mosquito that carries the Zika virus, the Aedes aegypti. Would attempting to eliminate them be a good thing, or would it somehow backfire the ways things often do when humans meddle with nature?

If you're young and single, chances are you're rejecting potential dates left and right on apps like Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid.

It's a brutal virtual world. Hundreds of people are whittled down to a few in minutes. In the seconds you lingered on one person's profile, four pictures and an ambiguous job title, what made you swipe him or her to the right?

On a cold night in January 2012, Dustin Bergsing climbed on top of a crude oil storage tank in North Dakota's Bakken oil field. His job was to open the hatch on top and drop a rope inside to measure the level of oil. But just after midnight, a co-worker found him dead, slumped next to the open hatch.

First, Alzheimer's takes a person's memory. Then it takes their family's money.

That's the central finding of a report published Wednesday by the Alzheimer's Association on the financial burden friends and families bear when they care for someone with dementia.

The Supreme Court has ordered more legal briefs in the birth control case it heard last week, indicating that the justices are struggling to avoid another 4-4 tie. The case tests the religious liberty claims against the Obamacare mandate for birth control in all health insurance plans.

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At the trendy South by Southwest conference in mid-March, there was buzz about music, movies, President Obama's keynote address ... and tractors.

Why? Because there's a new, low-cost (but pretty smart) mini-tractor that's part of a business start-up in Abuja, Nigeria, called "Hello Tractor." And it was part of a SxSW competition.

Author Peggy Orenstein says that when it comes to sexuality, girls today are receiving mixed messages. Girls hear that "they're supposed to be sexy, they're supposed to perform sexually for boys," Orenstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "but that their sexual pleasure is unspoken."

While researching her new book, Girls & Sex, Orenstein spoke with more than 70 young women between the ages of 15 and 20 about their attitudes and early experiences with the full range of physical intimacy.

They called her Mr. Smith.

When the newly installed USAID chief Gayle Smith was at a conference in Africa recently, the local leaders didn't recognize the gender of her name. So they gave her a "Mr. Smith" tag — which she now has on top of a bookshelf in her corner office at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington, D.C.

The nameplate on her desk makes things clear. It says: "GIRL BOSS."

It's not just patients who are getting tired of ever rising drug prices. Doctors are joining the chorus of frustration.

The latest voice? The American College of Physicians, whose membership includes 143,000 internal medicine doctors. It published a position paper Monday calling for the government and industry to take steps to rein in spiraling costs.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist and Harvard oncologist have a proposal to get highly effective but prohibitively expensive drugs into consumers' hands: health care installment loans.

Organic food has gone majorly mainstream, right? Wal-Mart has been driving down the price of organic with an in-house organic line. Whole Foods has begun experimenting with cheaper stores to catch up.

How do you fix a problem if you don't know its size?

Many states — including some that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis — don't know how many of their youngest residents each year are born physically dependent on those drugs. They rely on estimates.

Pennsylvania is one of those states. Ted Dallas, head of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, calls the information he's working with "reasonably good."

Dying Tradition: The Men Who Catch Baby Elephants

Mar 28, 2016

On a dry January morning, I set out to find the man who may well be Cambodia's last living elephant catcher.

Elephant catching is a tradition in parts of the country — or perhaps a legend. They say that years ago, men would venture out to lasso a baby elephant and bring the animal back to the village, to live with them and carry their heavy loads. I heard stories about elephant catchers while working as a reporter in Cambodia, covering illegal logging.

Ken Yeh is the director of technology at Ontario Christian Schools, a private K-12 school near Los Angeles with about 100 children per grade. Three years ago, the school began buying Google Chromebook laptops for every student in middle and high school.

The students would be allowed to take them home. Yeh says parents "were concerned" about what they might be used for, especially outside of school.

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here's some good news for new parents and their babies. Ear infections in infants are apparently on the decline. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has the details.

Amanda Hensley started abusing prescription painkillers when she was just a teenager. For years, she managed to function and hold down jobs. She even quit opioids for a while when she was pregnant with her now 4-year-old son. But she relapsed.

Hensley says she preferred drugs like Percocet and morphine, but opted for heroin when she was short on cash.

By the time she discovered she was pregnant last year, she couldn't quit.

Opioids are becoming the latest serious addiction problem in this country. Among these drugs manufactured from opium, heroin is the most serious, dangerous, cheap and available everywhere.

In April's edition of Harper's Magazine, Dan Baum has examined a new response to this latest addiction problem: the legalization of drugs.

"Ca nous fait swinguer" — love that swing, says an aficionado at the Dakar Goree Jazz Festival as the tempo shifts from Senegalese jazz to salsa and blues. Aissatou Niang says she's enchanted and delighted with the performances.

Other festivalgoers concur, smiling. They're attending the second edition of a burgeoning jazzfest in Dakar last month that brought together musicians from Senegal, the U.S. and beyond.

The festival is the brainchild of Amadou Koly Niang, a Senegalese man who fell in love with jazz in his teens.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on March 28 and has been updated to reflect the announcement from the World Health Organization terminating the "Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa." WHO notes that "all three countries have now completed the 42 day observation period and additional 90 day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negativ

When An Autism Diagnosis Comes In Adulthood

Mar 27, 2016

Earlier this year, Weekend Edition profiled three families and their experiences after a child was diagnosed with autism. At the time, we also asked listeners to share their own stories.

Among the responses were many from people who didn't get diagnosed until they were adults. Some had suspicions about their condition growing up. For others, the diagnosis was a revelation as much as it was a relief.

Here are three that struck a chord. (These first-person stories have been edited for length and clarity.)

John Consentino

Carolyn Rossi has been a registered nurse for 27 years, and she's been fiercely protective of infants in her intensive care unit — babies born too soon, babies born with physical and cognitive abnormalities and, increasingly, babies born dependent on opioids.

On a terrace outside his Havana apartment, Eduardo Martinez nurtures a small schefflera tree. On a Friday afternoon in January, he looks up at its leaves fondly.

"I got it when I was in the sanitarium. I put it in my living room and it began to grow until it reached the ceiling," he says in Spanish through a translator.

When he left the sanitarium in 1996, he took a clipping from the plant. "It was so small," he says. "But it has turned into this forest that you have here — so this is a memento from that time."

The world is in danger of running out of vaccines for a deadly disease: yellow fever. A major outbreak in the African nation of Angola has already depleted the stockpile that world health officials had set aside for emergencies. It's unclear whether new vaccines can be made in time — even as officials worry that the epidemic could spread through Asia and beyond.

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