WCBE

Health

Health

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.

The case of a Pennsylvania girl who is dying from cystic fibrosis has sparked an emotional debate over how the nation allocates lungs for transplantation.

Ten-year-old Sarah Murnaghan is in intensive care at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia awaiting a lung transplant. Under the current rules, lungs from adults are offered to other adults and adolescents before being offered to children younger than 12.

A federal appeals court has dealt the Obama administration yet another blow in its quest to keep at least some age restrictions on the sale of emergency contraceptive pills.

If you're looking for the definitive study that might persuade meat lovers to become vegetarians, this may not be it.

New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that vegetarian diets are linked to a slightly lower risk of early death — about 12 percent lower over a period of about six years of follow-up. But the link to longevity was more significant in men compared with women.

Every day in hospitals all over America, thousands of patients die of infections that used to be curable. But the antibiotics used to treat them aren't working anymore.

It's called drug resistance, and it's largely a consequence of antibiotics overuse. The more germs are exposed to antibiotics, the faster they mutate to evade being vanquished.

Mississippi lawmakers have embarked on a controversial campaign to discourage older men from having sex with teenagers.

Starting in July, doctors and midwives in the state will be required by law to collect samples of umbilical cord blood from babies born to some girls under the age of 16. Officials will analyze the samples and try to identify the fathers through matches in the state's DNA database.

Thanks to gold-standard tuberculosis treatment and prevention programs, cases of TB in the United States have declined every year for the past two decades — to the lowest level ever.

But TB's course through the Williams family in Boston shows that no nation can afford to relax its efforts to find, treat and prevent TB. It's just too sneaky and stubborn an adversary.

Marc Fucarile reached a huge milestone this week: He was one of the last two Boston Marathon bombing survivors to be released from the hospital.

Fucarile spent 45 days in Massachusetts General Hospital, and he hopes someday to get back to work with a roofing company.

But first he will have to go through rehab. He lost his right leg, and his left leg was badly hurt. He also suffered head injuries.

Drink enough soda and your teeth could deteriorate so much that they look like the teeth of a methamphetamine or crack addict.

That's one of the messages of a case study published in a recent issue of General Dentistry, the journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, a hero to many conservatives and tea party advocates who saw her fortunes rise and fall quickly in the 2012 race for the GOP presidential nomination, announced early Wednesday that she will not seek re-election to a fifth term in Congress.

"Make that a large fry and Coke!"

This is what came out of my 13-year-old son's mouth this weekend on the way back from a camping trip.

After I'd ordered him a kids' meal at the drive-thru, he interjected to change the order. (I let it go, this time, since he's lean and we don't frequently eat fast food.)

But think of those extra calories. Or not.

Apparently, not too many boys his age are inclined to check out calorie counts (or other calorie information) when they eat out.

Look in any vending machine, and you can find plenty of snacks with dubious nutritional profiles. Take the ones in the state Capitol in Salem, Ore.

"We've got a lot of Cheetos and Pop-Tarts and candy bars and cookies and things like that," says state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer.

More than 30 million Americans experience significant hearing loss, but only a third of them get hearing aids.

There are a lot of reasons why someone who needs a hearing aid won't get one: Some think their hearing loss is not that bad, others are too embarrassed to use them, and many people say they are just not worth the price.

Hearing aids cost an average of $1,500 per ear for a basic model, and unlike most technology, their price has not dropped over time.

Stress can be a bummer for your heart. And, it seems, antidepressants may help some people with heart disease better weather that stress.

That's the intriguing suggestion from a study that tested how people with heart disease reacted when faced with challenging mental and social tests.

When it comes to weaning, humans are weird.

Our closest relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, breast-feed their offspring for several years. Some baby orangutans nurse until they are 7 years old.

But modern humans wean much earlier. In preindustrial societies, babies stop nursing after about two years. Which raises the question: How did we get that way? When did we make the evolutionary shift from apelike parenting to the short breast-feeding period of humans?

One way to know how much soda people drink is to ask them.

The problem? We tend to underestimate, lie or forget what we've consumed.

And this is a challenge for researchers who study the links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.

As the country awaits two important Supreme Court decisions involving state laws on same-sex marriage, a small but consistent body of research suggests that laws that ban gay marriage — or approve it — can affect the mental health of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.

The American Psychiatric Association is about to release an updated version of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM helps mental health professionals decide who has problems such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

Psychiatry's new manual, DSM-5, has been nearly 20 years in the making. During that time, scientists have learned a lot about the brain. Yet despite some tweaks to categories such as autism and mood disorders, DSM-5 is remarkably similar to the version issued in 1994.

Stimulating the brain with a very small electrical current through the forehead could boost a student's ability to learn and remember basic mathematics, a provocative experiment suggests.

The work, published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology, could help those who struggle with mental arithmetic. But the study was small and the long-term effect wasn't profound.

Americans are repeatedly told to cut back on salt to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there are new questions being raised about the possible risks of reducing sodium too much.

So, how low should we go? Currently, the government recommends that Americans should aim for 2,300 milligrams per day. And people older than 50, as well as those with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease are advised to reduce sodium even further, down to 1,500 mg per day.

Angelina Jolie just became part of a medical trend: More women are deciding to have their breasts removed to reduce the risk of cancer.

Over the past decade, doctors have noticed a big increase in the number of women choosing prophylactic, or preventive, mastectomies.

Some, like Jolie, have a genetic mutation that makes it much more likely that they will have breast cancer. Her mother died of the disease at age 56. Jolie is 37. She wrote about her decision in The New York Times.

When she was just 6, Emily Gorospe became very tired and sick. The spunky girl, now 8, developed a fever that wouldn't go away, and red blotches appeared across her body.

"She's got so much energy usually," says Emily's mother, Valerie Gorospe. "Just walking from one part of the house ... she was drained." The little girl was also very pale. "She just didn't look like herself," Valerie recalls.

Any gardener will tell you that compost is "black gold," essential to cultivating vigorous, flavorful crops. But it always feels like there's never enough, and its weight and bulk make it tough stuff to cart around.

I belong to a community garden in Washington, D.C., that can't get its hands on enough compost. So you can imagine my delight when I learned that the U.S. Composting Council was connecting community gardeners with free material from local facilities through its Million Tomato Compost Campaign.

Kids With Autism Quick To Detect Motion

May 10, 2013

Children with autism see simple movements twice as fast as other children their age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Rochester were looking to test a common theory about autism which holds that overwhelming sensory stimulation inhibits other brain functions. The researchers figured they could check that by studying how kids with autism process moving images.

A study of genetically identical mice is providing some hints about humans. How can one identical twin be a wallflower while the other is the life of the party?

The study of 40 young mice found that their behavior grew increasingly different over three months, even though the mice shared the same genes and lived in the same five-level cage, researchers report Thursday in the journal Science.

Pages