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It's almost 4 p.m., and police officers Ernest Stevens and Ned Bandoske have been driving around town in their unmarked black SUV since early this morning. The officers are part of San Antonio's mental health squad — a six-person unit that answers the frequent emergency calls where mental illness may be an issue.

The officers spot a call for help on their laptop from a group home across town.

"A male individual put a blanket on fire this morning," Stevens reads from the blotter. "He's arguing ... and is a danger to himself and others. He's off his medications."

Experimental Vaccine For Chikungunya Passes First Test

Aug 18, 2014

Scientists have taken the first steps to developing a vaccine for chikungunya — an emerging mosquito-borne virus that has infected more than a half million people in the Western Hemisphere this year. About 600 Americans have brought the virus to 43 states.

When it comes to deadly, contagious disease outbreaks like Ebola, the terms "quarantine" and "isolation" take on fresh relevance and urgency. Each has a distinct meaning in the public health context, though the words are often used interchangeably and both refer to protecting the public from communicable illnesses.

Many forces can drive a male college student to commit sexual assault. But one of the most important may be the company he keeps.

Emily Veltus, a health educator working in Sierra Leone, says her organization, Doctors Without Borders, is "maxed out" in dealing with Ebola and that more help is needed to control an outbreak that is still raging.

When you sign up for a reporting fellowship to learn about the health of newborns in Ethiopia, you expect things to be a little different from what you're used to in the U.S. To be perfectly honest, a little worse. But Ethiopia actually surprised me, even before I took off.

I did my research, and it turns out that Ethiopia's health care system is getting better — significantly better. It's meeting international goals, winning awards from the United States and, more important, babies are living longer and fewer mothers are dying in childbirth.

Vicki Hornbuckle used to play the piano at her church. But that was before her liver started failing.

"I had to give it up because I couldn't keep up," says Hornbuckle, 54, of Snellville, Georgia. "I didn't have the energy to do three services on Sunday. You're just too tired to deal with anything. And so, it's not a life that you want to live."

But Hornbuckle hasn't given up. She's fighting to stay alive long enough to get a liver transplant.

The campaign is called "Kick Back Ebola." But the posters pack a punch.

Sierra Leone has reported over 700 suspected Ebola cases, more than any other country this year. To help stop the outbreak, health workers have put up Ebola awareness signs all over Sierra Leone's seaside capital of Freetown.

Posters are pasted on hospital walls and outside clinics. Banners flutter along main streets. The goal of the campaign is to keep the reality of Ebola — and how to detect it — very much alive in people's minds.

The question of why the Ebola virus seems to so badly frighten so many people seems, at first, to have an obvious answer.

Ebola, after all, is an incurable hemorrhagic virus with a mortality rate that soars in some outbreaks to 90 percent of those infected. Symptoms in sufferers with advanced disease go beyond high fever and gastrointestinal misery to bleeding from the mouth, nose, ears and eyes.

Lots of high-performance athletes use interval training to maximize their fitness.

From runners to cyclists to boot-camp fanatics the strategy involves alternating between periods of high-intensity and lower-intensity aerobic training.

Now, a study published in the journal Diabetologia finds that interval training may help the millions of people with Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes who are trying to control their blood sugar.

When it comes to reining in medical costs, delivering more health care and bringing it right to the patient's home can, for a select group of patients, save money.

These particular patients are elders struggling with multiple chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, stroke, diabetes or dementia. They make up just 5 percent of the people on Medicare, but they account for about half of all Medicare spending.

Medicare spent more than $30 million in 2012 on questionable HIV medication costs, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in an investigation published Wednesday.

The possible fraud schemes were all paid for by Medicare's prescription drug program known as Part D. Among the most egregious:

  • In Detroit, a 77-year-old woman purportedly filled $33,500 worth of prescriptions for 10 different HIV medications. But there's no record she had HIV or that she had visited the doctors who wrote the scripts.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday suggests the Affordable Care Act is significantly increasing the number of Americans with health insurance, especially in states that are embracing it. It echoes previous Gallup surveys, and similar findings by the Urban Institute and Rand Corp.

Amelia Togba-Addy lives in Atlanta, but Ebola is always on her mind.

Like many Liberian Americans, she has family and friends in West Africa, where Ebola has killed nearly 900 people. In Liberia alone, the World Health Organization has reported almost 500 cases and more than 250 deaths so far.

So when Togba-Addy's aunt called early one morning last week, she panicked.

"The first thing I thought about was, 'Oh! A family member has come down with the virus,' " she says. "So I started crying."

Until this year, the world had recorded 1,640 deaths from Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1976.

Then Ebola appeared in West Africa.

So far this year, 887 people have died of Ebola in West Africa, the World Health Organization said Monday.

To put that into perspective, more than a third of all people known to have died from the Ebola virus have died in the current outbreak.

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

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

If you watched any TV news today, you probably saw images of an ambulance making its way to the streets of Atlanta. The ambulance pulls up to hospital carrying an American infected with the Ebola virus. The whole trip was narrated by CNN.

Health Law Calls For Automatic Enrollment Of Some Workers

Aug 5, 2014

Newly hired employees who don't sign up for health insurance on the job could have it done for them under a health law provision that may take effect as early as next year.

Sometimes nature comes up with elegant solutions to difficult problems, like how to gain weight and not get diabetes.

Take, for instance, the grizzly bear. How does this 750-pound mammal survive long, lean winters? Well, it just gets really fat beforehand and then sleeps the hungry season away.

Grizzly bears can easily double their body fat in the months leading up to hibernation. For us humans, this kind of weight gain could result in some pretty serious health consequences — one of the most common being Type 2 diabetes.

If you show up at a hospital emergency department with a high fever and you just happen to have been traveling in Africa, don't be surprised if you get a lot of attention.

Hospitals are on the lookout for people with symptoms such as a high fever, vomiting and diarrhea who had been traveling in parts of West Africa affected by Ebola, following instructions from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, New York's Mount Sinai Hospital announced that it was evaluating a patient who had recently been in West Africa.

Carmen Smith remembers the day about a year ago when she gained Medicaid coverage.

"It was like Christmas Day, it was like getting a gift from Santa Claus!" she says. "People don't realize how important and how special it is to have insurance to be able to go see a doctor on a regular basis when you have an illness like mine."

Smith, 44, has Type 2 diabetes. Before qualifying for Medicaid coverage, she was what policy experts call a "frequent flier." She had used the emergency room at MetroHealth, the public hospital in Cleveland, five times in one year.

Scratch one more simple explanation for autism off the list. This time it's the idea that children with autism have low levels of oxytocin, often called the "love hormone" because it can make people more trusting and social.

If there's a single invention that helped shape New York City, literally, it might be the elevator. Along with steel frame construction, the elevator allowed New York City to grow up.

But according to architect David Burney, former New York City commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction, it's time to celebrate the steps.

We're constantly hearing messages that we're eating too much and not moving around enough. Now researchers suggest that we're actually not eating more than we did 20 years ago, it's that we're much less active. And that includes not just middle-aged workers tied to their desks, but also young men and women who spend their days sitting in front of their laptops.

When Elizabeth O'Connell was expecting her first child, she knew she wanted to breast-feed. And, she says, she sort of expected it to just happen, naturally.

That's not quite how it panned out. "I was experiencing very tremendous pain," she says.

At first she figured that was normal — but soon it became too much to handle. "I was devastated," she says. "The reality is nursing is a wonderful bonding experience, but when you're in pain, you aren't really thinking about that."

After winning the Tour de France last Sunday, Vincenzo Nibali was tested for a bunch of performance-enhancing substances. But Nibali and his fellow competitors were welcome to have several cups of coffee (or cans of Red Bull), before their ride into Paris; caffeine is not on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list.

For the second time this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has raised the travel alert for three West African countries, as the death toll in the Ebola outbreak increased at an alarming rate.

"The bottom line is that the multiple outbreaks in West Africa are worsening right now," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told NPR on Thursday. "This is the biggest, most complex and the most difficult outbreak of Ebola that we've had to deal with."

Robin Koval is making a career of her changed tobacco habit.

"I'm a child of a smoker — my father was a heavy smoker," Koval says. "Really typical to the way the story goes, I started smoking when I was 15."

Now she is president and CEO of Legacy, a foundation devoted to preventing tobacco use.

We think of heart disease as a modern scourge, brought on by our sedentary lifestyles and our affinity for fast food.

But a few years ago, a team of researchers discovered something puzzling — CT scans of Egyptian mummies showed signs of hardened, narrow arteries. Further scans of mummies from other ancient civilizations turned up the same thing.

Problem Drinking In Midlife Linked To Memory Trouble Later

Jul 30, 2014

To ward off big memory problems in your 70s and beyond you may want to cork the bottle more often now.

In a study of 6,500 people published this week, adults with a midlife history of drinking problems were more than twice as likely as those without alcohol problems to suffer severe memory impairment decades later.

News about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to go from bad to worse.

Last week a doctor leading the fight against the outbreak got sick in Sierra Leone. Now two American aid workers have tested positive for the virus in Liberia, and the outbreak has likely spread to a fourth country, Nigeria.

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