Health Desk

Shots - Health News
1:51 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

A Single Gene May Determine Why Some People Get So Sick With The Flu

The H1N1 swine flu virus kills some people, while others don't get very sick at all. A genetic variation offers one clue.
Centre For Infections/Health Pro Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:07 pm

It's hard to predict who will get the flu in any given year. While some people may simply spend a few days in bed with aches and a stuffy nose, others may become so ill that they end up in the hospital.

Read more
Shots - Health News
9:31 am
Thu March 26, 2015

High-Deductible Health Plans Cut Costs, At Least For Now

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:07 pm

Got a high-deductible health plan? The kind that doesn't pay most medical bills until they exceed several thousand dollars? You're a foot soldier who's been drafted in the war against high health costs.

Read more
Goats and Soda
8:52 am
Thu March 26, 2015

What's Up With Parents Who Don't Vaccinate Their Children?

Two drops of polio vaccine are administered to a child in a Nigerian health clinic.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 1:10 pm

A decade ago in Nigeria, rumors spread that polio vaccines were surreptitious sterilization efforts. That led to a boycott of the vaccine in 2003 and a resurgence in the poliovirus three years later.

The story points up a key point about vaccines: Confidence is critical.

A new study of more than 20,000 people in five countries looks as why people aren't confident in vaccines. The reasons vary, from a belief the vaccine isn't safe to a bad experience with a previous vaccination.

And the results can be devastating.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:52 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Why Doctors Are Trying A Skin Cancer Drug To Treat A Brain Tumor

MaryAnn Anselmo has started to sing again after recovering from brain surgery and having successful treatment with a drug that targeted a mutation in her tumor cells.
Dave Gershgorn/WNYC

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 2:27 pm

MaryAnn Anselmo feared for the worst when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor called a glioblastoma in late 2013.

"You start doing research on that type of tumor, and you're saying, 'Oh my God, you're history.' It's like a death sentence," says, Anselmo, now 59.

Only for her it wasn't.

Anselmo's successful treatment shows how precision medicine — tailoring therapy to each patient's genetic needs — is beginning to transform cancer care.

Read more
It's All Politics
2:48 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Is Capitol Hill Ready To Rest Its Near-Annual 'Doc Fix' Exercise?

If Reps. Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner win and their plan becomes law, it would kill what's known on Capitol Hill as the "doc fix."
David McNew Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 11:11 am

Updated at 12:10 p.m. E.T.

Doctors who treat Medicare patients will face a huge cut, 21 percent, if Congress doesn't act by the end of the month. This isn't a new problem. While Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill agree that the formula that pays doctors who treat Medicare patients has long been broken, over the years they've been unable to pass more than temporary patches.

Read more
Goats and Soda
3:23 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Mosquitoes Can Smell Inside Your Blood

Hanna Barczyk for NPR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 4:10 pm

Garlic lovers: You can smell them before you see them. Some people would say they even stink!

Hours after you eat garlic, your breath can still smell bad, as your body digests compounds in the plant and releases them into your blood.

Now scientists say a similar process might explain why people infected with malaria attract more mosquitoes than those not infected.

Read more
The Salt
3:22 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Arsenic In California Wines: Should Drinkers Be Concerned?

"There's no reason to believe that exposure to arsenic in food and wine is above levels that are considered to be safe," says Susan Ebeler, a professor and chemist in the Foods For Health Institute at the University of California, Davis.
Erik Schelzig ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Mon April 6, 2015 11:58 am

There's been a lot of buzz around the story that some inexpensive California wines, including a Charles Shaw (aka two-buck Chuck) white Zinfandel sold at Trader Joe's, have been found to contain traces of arsenic.

Read more
Shots - Health News
3:14 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

University And Biotech Firm Team Up On Colorblindness Therapy

A simulation from the Neitz lab of what colorblindness looks like, with normal color vision on the left and red-green colorblindness on the right.
Courtesy of Neitz Laboratory

Originally published on Wed April 8, 2015 6:23 pm

More than 10 million Americans have trouble distinguishing red from green or blue from yellow, and there's no treatment for colorblindness.

A biotech company and two scientists hope to change that.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:07 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

A Woman's Journey From Cancer Diagnosis To 'Professional Patient'

The Josephson family in 2001, after Dixie (third from left) was told she had cancer.
Courtesy of the Josephsons

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 9:31 am

Dixie Josephson was 56 when she was diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. She's 71 now, but the cancer is still with her.

Josephson's story is one shared by other fortunate cancer patients. Advances in treatment mean that more people like Josephson can live longer with their disease. Still, the five-year survival rate for metastatic ovarian cancer is 27 percent, putting Josephson in the minority.

And the treatments that have extended her life have also taken a toll on her and her family.

Read more
Shots - Health News
11:13 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Patients Often Aren't Offered Minimally Invasive Surgery

iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 9:32 am

It would be nice to think that when you go in for surgery you'd be offered the safest, cheapest alternative, but that's not always the case, a study finds.

Some hospitals are much more likely than others to offer minimally invasive surgery for procedures like colon or lung surgery or appendectomy, according to an analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Surgery.

Read more
Goats and Soda
10:32 am
Wed March 25, 2015

How Did Ebola Volunteers Know Where To Go In Liberia? Crowdsourcing!

Kpetermeni Siakor (left), a Liberian who is studying in Ghana, used crowdsourcing software to help out during the Ebola epidemic.
Courtesy of Ashesi University College

From more than 900 miles away, Kpetermeni Siakor helped get volunteers to the right neighborhoods in his native Liberia during the height of the Ebola epidemic.

He did it with Ushahidi, crowdsourcing software that was developed in Kenya in 2008, when the country experienced a wave of post-election violence. The word Ushahidi means testimony in Swahili.

Read more
Shots - Health News
7:29 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Affordable Care Act Makes This Tax Season Painful For Many

Tax preparation software doesn't always calculate the complexity of Affordable Care Act subsidies and credits properly.
Daniel Acker Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:08 pm

This tax season, for the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed five years ago, consumers are facing its financial consequences.

Whether they owe a penalty for not having health insurance, or have to figure out whether they need to pay back part of the subsidy they received to offset the cost of monthly insurance premiums, many people have to contend with new tax forms and calculations.

Read more
Goats and Soda
6:03 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Superslick Coatings Conquer Ketchup, But What About Ebola?

No thumping required: Ketchup easily slides out of a glass bottle treated with LiquiGlide.
Screengrabs from LiquiGlide

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 10:19 am

The videos are almost unbelievable. Ketchup slides out of the jar and you don't even have to give it a thump. Glue slips out of the bottle without a molecule left inside. And what about getting that last smidgen of toothpaste from a used tube? No problem.

Welcome to the world of LiquiGlide.

Read more
NPR Story
4:14 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Safer Anthrax Test Aims To Keep The Bioweapon From Terrorists

Safe and small: The credit-card-sized test for anthrax destroys the deadly bacteria after the test completes.
Courtesy of Sandia Nation

Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 2:48 pm

Engineers at Sandia National Laboratory have come up with what they think is a safer diagnostic test for anthrax bacteria — a test that would prevent the "bad guys" from getting their hands on this dangerous pathogen.

Sandia is home to the International Biological Threat Reduction Program. "Our interest is in safety and security of pathogens," says Melissa Finley. Finley isn't a bioweapons expert. She's a veterinarian.

Read more
Injured Nurses
3:42 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Despite High Rates Of Nursing Injuries, Government Regulators Take Little Action

Michael Bolla and Sally Singer lift Leon Anders using a ceiling lift and sling at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif. The VA system is among a very small number of hospitals that have installed equipment and provided proper training so their nursing staff can avoid physically lifting and moving patients themselves.
Annie Tritt for NPR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 11:40 am

Just about everybody who has studied the hospital industry agrees that it needs to confront the epidemic that plagues many of its staff: Tens of thousands of nursing employees suffer debilitating injuries every year, mainly from doing part of their everyday jobs — moving and lifting patients. The problem is, nobody agrees how to get hospitals to take aggressive action.

As NPR has been reporting in its Injured Nurses series, nursing employees suffer more back and arm injuries than just about any other occupations.

Read more
Health
3:34 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Angelina Jolie Pitt's Surgeries Will Reduce Cancer Risk, Doctors Say

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 11:40 am

In a New York Times op-ed Tuesday, Angelina Jolie Pitt revealed that she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed because of cancer fears. Doctors say that because of her family history, it will reduce her risk by almost 90 percent.

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

Transcript

Read more
The Salt
3:00 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

A Top Weedkiller Could Cause Cancer. Should We Be Scared?

Central Illinois corn farmer Jerry McCulley refills his sprayer with the weedkiller glyphosate on a farm near Auburn, Ill. A new assessment of the chemical finds that the (uncertain) risks mainly affect the people who work with it or who come in direct contact with areas where it's applied.
Seth Perlman AP

An international committee of cancer experts shocked the agribusiness world a few days ago when it announced that two widely used pesticides are "probably carcinogenic to humans." The well-respected International Agency for Research on Cancer published a brief explanation of its conclusions in The Lancet and plans to issue a book-length version later this year.

Read more
The Salt
12:15 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Why There's A Big Battle Brewing Over The Lean Meat In Your Diet

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 12:22 pm

Never underestimate the power of a footnote.

When a panel of nutrition scientists tasked with updating the government's guidelines on healthy eating released its 500-plus-page tome on Feb. 19, one particular 52-word footnote threw a wrench into the conventional wisdom on lean meat. It caught the meat industry's eye, and it's created a controversy.

Read more
Shots - Health News
10:31 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Feds Claim Obamacare Launch Is Hindering Government Transparency

Unfilled requests for public records are piling up as the government claims it is being overwhelmed by Obamacare.
Bjorn Rune Lie Ikon Images/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 3:53 pm

A heavy workload caused by the Affordable Care Act, government technology limits and staff shortages are causing unusually long delays in filling public records requests, federal health officials say.

The waits in some cases could stretch out a decade or more.

The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to respond to records requests in 20 working days, though providing documents often takes much longer. The FBI, for instance, recently reported that complex requests could average more than two years to fill.

Read more
Shots - Health News
10:22 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Quality-Testing Legal Marijuana: Strong But Not Always Clean

Andrey Saprykin iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 3:52 pm

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in four states, but that doesn't mean it's a tested consumer product. Some of those potent buds are covered in fungus while others contain traces of butane, according to an analysis of marijuana in Colorado.

Read more
Shots - Health News
10:01 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Even In Nursing, Men Earn More Than Women

If he's a nurse anesthetist, he could be making $17,290 a year more than his female counterparts.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 3:52 pm

Women outnumber men in the nursing profession by more than 10 to 1. But men still earn more, a new study finds.

Even after controlling for age, race, marital status and children in the home, males in nursing outearned females by nearly $7,700 per year in outpatient settings and nearly $3,900 in hospitals.

Read more
Goats and Soda
9:41 am
Tue March 24, 2015

TB Patients That The World Writes Off Are Getting Cured In Peru

Maria Carmen Castro, 46, of Lima, Peru, is a survivor of MDR-TB — multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Partners In Health treated her and loaned her money to open a small store. "Because of my TB and thanks to God and Partners In Health, now I have my own business," she says.
Jason Beaubien NPR

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 8:23 am

You sure don't want to get tuberculosis. You'll cough a lot, maybe cough up blood, have fever, chills and chest pain. But most cases of the bacterial disease are curable after taking the two first-line drugs for four to six months.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:44 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Many Doctors Who Diagnose Alzheimer's Fail To Tell The Patient

When combined with results of other neurological tests, and in the context of a thorough medical history, atrophy of the brain (shown here in an MRI scan) sometimes indicates Alzheimer's.
Simon Fraser Science Source

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 12:01 pm

Doctors are much more likely to level with patients who have cancer than patients who have Alzheimer's, according to a report released this week by the Alzheimer's Association.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:38 am
Tue March 24, 2015

How 2 Children With Leukemia Helped Transform Its Treatment

Both James Eversull (left) and Pat Patchell were treated with experimental chemotherapy and radiation for leukemia as children in the 1960s. Together, they're now some of the country's oldest leukemia survivors..
Courtesy of James Eversull; Courtesy of Pat Patchell

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 8:50 am

When children are diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia now, they have more than a 90 percent chance of survival.

But when James Eversull was told he had leukemia in 1964, there wasn't much hope.

He was just 18 months old when his parents discovered what was wrong.

Read more
Shots - Health News
5:58 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

States That Expand Medicaid Detect More Cases Of Diabetes

Johnny Reynolds ignored diabetes symptoms and put off going to the doctor for years when he didn't have health insurance. He was afraid he couldn't afford treatment.
Anders Kelto/NPR

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 7:18 pm

Johnny Reynolds knew that something was wrong as far back as 2003. That's when he first started experiencing extreme fatigue.

"It was like waking up every morning and just putting a person over my shoulders and walking around with them all day long," says Reynolds, 54, who lived in Ohio at the time.

In addition, Reynolds was constantly thirsty and drank so much water that he would urinate 20 or 30 times per day. "And overnight I would probably get up at least eight or nine times a night," he says.

Read more
Goats and Soda
5:52 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

You're Just A Blob In Layers Of Plastic

It's not the real deal. This Ebola Treatment Unit was set up for a TED talk in Vancouver so people could get a sense of what the units are like, and what it's like to put on the protective suit.
Nina Gregory

At his TED Talk in Vancouver last week, Bill Gates posed the idea that, "If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus, rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes." He noted how the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which has taken about 10,000 lives, revealed serious problems in our global health care system. It's not that the systems didn't work well enough, he said. "We didn't have a system at all." He called the response "a global failure."

Read more
Shots - Health News
4:07 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Why The War On Cancer Hasn't Been Won

Vidhya Nagarajan for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 11:26 am

When President Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer in 1971, there were high hopes that scientists were close enough to understanding the underlying causes that many cures were within reach.

We obviously haven't won the war.

In fact, a prominent cancer biologist argues that the conceptual framework for understanding cancer has come full circle over the past 40 years.

Read more
Shots - Health News
2:53 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Stats Split On Progress Against Cancer

Find other stories in the Living Cancer series at WNYC.org.
WNYC

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 7:33 am

When someone asks whether we're winning the war on cancer, the discussion often veers into the world of numbers. And, depending on which numbers you're looking at, the answer can either be yes or no.

Let's start with the no.

The number of cancer deaths in this country is on the rise. It climbed 4 percent between 2000 and 2011, the latest year in official statistics. More than 577,000 people died of cancer in 2011. That's almost a quarter of all deaths. Those aren't just personal tragedies – the figure represents a growing burden on America.

Read more
Shots - Health News
12:18 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

If You're Going To Die Soon, Do You Really Need Statins?

iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 3:30 pm

It's easy to get put on statins, and it can be surprisingly hard to get off them. That's true even for people who are terminally ill and might have bigger concerns than reducing their cardiovascular risk.

People approaching the end of life who did stop statins were not more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who kept taking the drugs, according to researchers who tested the idea.

Read more
Goats and Soda
2:38 am
Mon March 23, 2015

As Ebola Crisis Ebbs, Aid Agencies Turn To Building Up Health Systems

Light shines through the chlorine-stained windows in the blood-testing area at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, Monrovia, Liberia.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 5:16 pm

Michelle Niescierenko is a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children's Hospital. But for the past five months she has been in Liberia, helping the country's 21 public hospitals get back on their feet after the devastating Ebola outbreak there. She says the challenges they face are shocking.

"Almost all the hospitals that we worked with in Liberia are running on generators," she says. The trouble with generators is that they require fuel.

Read more

Pages