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Health

Health

West Nile virus looked like it was waning as a health threat, with the number of cases dropping each year. Then last summer, it roared back.

The number of people infected with the mosquito-borne illness suddenly spiked in 2012. And Dallas was hit hardest of all.

People showed up in emergency rooms with encephalitis and paralysis, unable to breathe on their own.

Sickle Cell Anemia Is On The Rise Worldwide

Jul 17, 2013

Sickle cell anemia may not be as well-known as, say, malaria, tuberculosis or AIDS. But every year, hundreds of thousands of babies around the world are born with this inherited blood disorder. And the numbers are expected to climb.

The number of sickle cell anemia cases is expected to increase about 30 percent globally by 2050, scientists said Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is most common, will be the hardest hit.

The newest co-host for Barbara Walters' chatfest The View is a vivacious and outspoken model, actor and activist for children, seemingly a perfect person to have at the table of the successful network talk show.

But Jenny McCarthy is also one of the nation's leading skeptics about the safety of vaccines. And in that role, ABC's newest star has stirred consternation.

Uncle Sam wants your doctor to go digital. And the federal government is backing that up with money for practices that start using computerized systems for record keeping.

Nearly half of all physicians in America still rely on paper records for most patient care. Time is running out for those who do to take advantage of federal funds to make the switch. So practices like Colorado Springs Internal Medicine are scrambling to get with the program.

Every year more than a quarter of a million Americans have total hip replacement surgery. It's almost always a successful operation that frees patients from what's often described as disabling pain.

But in recent years, there's been lots of discussion on the Internet about "anterior approach" hip replacement, a surgical technique that's different than the standard procedure. It's one that proponents say can lead to quicker recovery, three to four weeks compared to six to eight weeks for typical surgery.

Anybody who has ever worn a cast knows that it can really cramp your style. You itch. After a while, you stink. At times, it seems like the cast needs even more care than you do. Keep it dry or else!

Other than the addition of garish colors of fiberglass, there hasn't been much innovation in cast technology in what seems like forever. But down in New Zealand, designer Jake Evill is bringing the latest in 3-D printing to orthopedics.

Do Diet Drinks Mess Up Metabolisms?

Jul 10, 2013

It may seem counterintuitive, but there's a body of evidence to suggest that the millions of Americans with a diet soda habit may not be doing their waistlines — or their blood sugar — any favors.

As the consumption of diet drinks made with artificial sweeteners continues to rise, researchers are beginning to make some uncomfortable associations with weight gain and other diseases.

That cat poop can pose a health risk to humans no longer surprises us.

Some cats carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Infected cats shed embryonic T. gondii, called oocysts, in their feces.

The Major League Baseball season is now half over, and some fans are already starting to think about the World Series in October.

October is also a big month for the Obama administration.

That's when millions of Americans can start signing up for new health insurance policies through health exchanges established in each state under the Affordable Care Act.

The Renaissance Garden at the New York Botanical Garden, a re-creation of a 16th-century medicinal garden, is so lush and colorful, it takes only a stroll through to absorb its good medicine.

The garden, part of a summer exhibit called Wild Medicine: Healing Plants Around the World, is a small-scale model of the Italian Renaissance Garden in Padua, Italy, Europe's first botanical garden.

Dr. Linda Smith walks into a room at Providence Alaska Medical Center, ready with a stethoscope and a huge grin. She teases her patient, Dawn Dillard, saying that her spiky hair recently resembled a "faux hawk."

Dillard found out she had uterine cancer a year ago. Her oncologist gave her a year to live. The 57-year-old has beaten those odds, but now her kidneys are failing. After the laughs are over, Smith sits down on the edge of Dillard's bed, leans in, and starts talking about a procedure Dillard will have.

Japanese scientists have cracked open a freaky new chapter in the sci-fi-meets-stem-cells era. A group in Yokohama reported it has grown a primitive liver in a petri dish using a person's skin cells.

The organ isn't complete. It's missing a few parts. And it will be years --maybe decades — before the technique reaches clinics.

In 2011, the state of California created a problem for the soda industry.

The caramel color that Coke and Pepsi used to give colas that distinctive brown hue contained a chemical, 4-methylimidazole — 4-MEI — that is listed as a carcinogen by the state.

And in accordance with California's Proposition 65 law, the levels of 4-MEI found in sodas would have warranted a cancer warning label on every can sold in the state.

David Green is a man on a mission to drive down the cost of medical devices and health services.

His tactic: Use market forces and slightly tweaked business strategies to make health care accessible to even the poorest people. And he's had some amazing success.

I caught up with Green (no relation to NPR's David Greene) at a company he is launching in Chicago that's taking on the high cost of hearing aids. He's demonstrating how to program his company's new hearing device on a cellphone.

As many as 300 million people around the world need hearing aids. The vast majority of the 7 million people who get them annually are in the U.S. and Europe.

One big reason is cost. On average, a set of hearing aids rings up a tab of about $4,000. Most insurance policies don't cover them.

A company called Sound World Solutions is trying to do something about the limited reach of hearing aids by creating a high-quality hearing device that costs less than a tenth the normal price.

Doctors have been putting in a lot of ear tubes. It's the most common outpatient surgery in children.

Despite how common the tubes are, it's been hard for parents to know if and when a child should get them. "Pediatricians are confused about it too," says Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, chairman of otolaryngology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. "And ENT doctors."

The biggest changes in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act are set to begin less than three months from now. Oct. 1 is when people can start signing up for coverage in new state health exchanges. The policies would kick in on Jan. 1, 2014.

It can all be a little confusing, we agree. So two weeks ago, we asked what you wanted to know about the health law.

Test-Driving The Obamacare Software

Jun 27, 2013

All the outreach in the world won't count for much if the Obamacare ticket counter doesn't work.

When students show up at college in the fall, they'll have to deal with new classes, new friends and a new environment. In many cases, they will also have new roommates — and an intriguing new research study suggests this can have important mental health consequences.

This weekend marks 100 days until people can begin signing up for new health insurance coverage under the federal health care law. It also marks another milestone: the launch of an enormous public relations effort to find people eligible for new coverage and urge them to sign up when the time comes.

But like everything else about the health law, even this seemingly innocuous effort has been touched by controversy.

The House has passed one of the most far-reaching abortion bills in decades. But it's unlikely to ever become law.

By a mostly party-line vote Tuesday of 228-196, lawmakers passed the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," which would ban nearly all abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization.

A dapper older gentleman spurns his mate of a certain age to take a fresh-faced young lover. You've seen that movie before, right?

Well, this choice of youth may turn out to be more than a Hollywood trope. Researchers say decisions like that one may have been the evolutionary source of menopause.

The human voice appears to trigger pleasure circuits in the brains of typical kids, but not children with autism, a Stanford University team reports. The finding could explain why many children with autism seem indifferent to spoken words.

Call it the Affordable Care Act, call it Obamacare, call it whatever you want — it's coming. And soon. In less than four months people without health insurance will be able to start signing up for coverage that begins Jan. 1.

A lot has been said about the law, most of it not that understandable. So starting now, and continuing occasionally through the summer and fall, we're going to try to fix that.

A once-a-day pill has been proven to lower the risk of getting HIV among needle-using drug addicts, just as it does among heterosexual couples and men who have sex with men.

Among 2,400 injecting drug users in Bangkok, those assigned to take a daily dose of an antiviral drug Viread, or tenofovir generically, had half the risk of getting HIV over a four-year period as those who took a placebo pill. Among those who took tenofovir faithfully, there were 74 percent fewer infections.

Forms of gonorrhea that don't respond to the last line of antibiotics have rapidly spread in Great Britain, expanding the reach of drug-resistant disease.

The number of gonorrhea cases with decreased sensitivity to the front-line drug cefixime increased by nearly six times from 2004 to 2011 in England and Wales, a team from the U.K.'s Health Protection Agency reported Tuesday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The World Health Organization is warning health care workers everywhere to suspect a disease called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, whenever they see a case of unexplained pneumonia.

Monday's warning comes at the end of a six-day WHO investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred. Sixty percent of those people with known infections died.

For many years, high medical bills have been a leading cause of financial distress and bankruptcy in America. That pressure may be easing ever so slightly, according to a survey released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But 1 in 5 Americans still face hardships due to medical costs — and African-Americans continue to be the hardest hit.

Barton Holmes was 16 months old when he had his first seizure. "He was convulsing and his eyes were rolling in the back of his head," his mother, Catherine McEaddy Holmes, says. "His lips were blue. I thought he was dying."

The seizure ended in less than a minute. And by the time an ambulance arrived, Barton was back to his old self. Even so, doctors at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where the family lives, kept him overnight while they tried, without success, to figure out what had caused the seizure.

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