Global Health

Sex with someone new has always made me nervous. Now, TV is making it even worse.

I keep seeing scary ads featuring young people asking their parents why they didn't get the vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus — HPV. If you're unfamiliar with HPV, it's a sexually transmitted infection that has been linked to various cancers, including cervical cancer in women.

I didn't get vaccinated. So lately I've been wondering: Now that I'm 29, is it too late for me to get the vaccine?

Yana Shapiro is a partner at a Philadelphia law firm with an exhausting travel schedule and two boys, ages 9 and 4. When she feels run-down from juggling everything and feels a cold coming on, she books an appointment for an intravenous infusion of water, vitamins and minerals.

"Anything to avoid antibiotics or being out of commission," the 37-year-old says.

Why Is The News About TB So Bad?

Oct 16, 2016

Many countries think of TB as a disease of the past and this lack of awareness results in shortfalls in funding and a lack of political will to aggressively combat the disease.

When an 8-year old boy showed up at his school's clinic in rural Haiti with a low-grade fever and abdominal pain, he was told he had typhoid and given medicine to treat it.

But blood tests showed something else: Mayaro, a mosquito-borne virus that may now be circulating in the Caribbean.

The Haitian boy remains an isolated case.

Diet and nutrition are now the biggest risk factors for people's health across the globe, even in poorer countries. That's according to a recent report published by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems Nutrition, an independent group of experts on nutrition and health.

Mammography can prevent deaths from breast cancer, but it's not a perfect test.

It misses some cancers, especially in women with dense breast tissue, and flags abnormalities for follow-up tests that turn out to be benign, among other issues. So there's a lot of interest in additional tests that might make screening more accurate in women who have dense breasts.

Women had a lot to say about what works — and what doesn't — for treating morning sickness, after we ran a post summarizing the evidence for home remedies and over-the-counter meds.

NPR's Facebook feed lit up with comments from women saying that ginger, acupressure and other home remedies, which were recommended for mild symptoms in a medical journal article published Tuesday, did nothing to tame their nausea and vomiting.

Human life spans have been increasing for decades thanks to advances in treating and preventing diseases and improved social conditions.

In fact, longevity has increased so much in recent decades that some researchers began to wonder: What is the upper limit on human aging?

One man died and four were injured in January after a clinical trial went awry in Rennes, France. Now, Biotrial, the company that ran that study, said it has opened a new research facility in Newark, N.J.

Biotrial conducts clinical trials on behalf of drugmakers and biotechnology companies. Most are phase 1 trials, in which an experimental drug is tried in a small group of volunteers to make a preliminary assessment of its safety before the drug moves on to larger human studies to further evaluate safety and also its effectiveness in treating an illness.

Morning sickness is a fact of life, or at least a fact of pregnancy, with more than three quarters of women enduring nausea or vomiting. There are tons of remedies touted, from ginger to acupuncture. But it can be hard to figure out what works.

Sitting beside a neatly made crib, 88-year-old Vivian Guzofsky holds up a baby doll dressed in puppy dog pajamas.

"Hello gorgeous," she says, laughing. "You're so cute."

Guzofsky, who has Alzheimer's disease, lives on a secure memory floor at a home for seniors in Beverly Hills, Calif. She visits the dolls in the home's pretend nursery nearly every day. Sometimes Guzofsky changes their clothes or lays them down for a nap. One morning in August, she sings to them: "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray."

Men who may have been exposed to the Zika virus should wait at least six months before trying to conceive a child with a partner, regardless of whether they ever had any symptoms, federal health officials are recommending.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously recommended that only men with Zika symptoms had to wait that long. Those who may have been exposed to Zika but never developed any symptoms were told to hold off on trying to conceive for just eight weeks.

Federal health officials are urging all Americans to get their flu shots as soon as possible, and are especially concerned that too few elderly people are getting vaccinated.

"Flu is serious. Flu is unpredictable," Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters during a joint briefing Thursday with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "Flu often does not get enough respect."

The Americas Are Now Officially 'Measles-Free'

Sep 28, 2016

The Americas are now free of measles, the first region in the world to achieve that goal, the Pan American Health Organization announced this week. The success is credited to the effectiveness of mass vaccination programs over the past 22 years.

When 15-year-old Billy Ellsworth stepped up to the microphone at a Food and Drug Administration public meeting in April, he had no way to know he was part of a historic shift in how the government considers the desires of patients and their advocates in evaluating new drugs.

Ellsworth has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a muscle-wasting disease, that mainly affects boys. And he was taking an experimental drug that the FDA was trying to decide whether to approve.

Who Is Responsible For That Pile Of Poop?

Sep 23, 2016

A group of villagers walks through Jiling, in the Nuwakot district of central Nepal, with eyes glued to the ground. They cut narrow paths around rice fields and yield to goats until they find what they are looking for: A brown, stinky, fly-covered pile.

"It's poop," laughs 40-year-old Chandra Kumari. Human poop.

Leading the expedition is Sanjaya Devkota, who works for the U.N. Habitat through the Global Sanitation Fund. He asks who's responsible for the offending pile.

Most animals die once they can no longer have kids, but men and women tend to totally buck this trend, living decades beyond their reproductive years despite drastic changes in their bodies.

I'm the health reporter covering the Zika story here at WLRN in Miami, and I'm a pregnant woman.

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott made free Zika testing available to all pregnant Floridians through the Florida Department of Health, I was one of the more than 2,200 women who took him up on the offer.

If you thought the battle over pornography ended with The People vs. Larry Flynt, think again. Utah has taken the step of declaring pornography a public health threat much like tobacco. And now it’s on the agenda in Washington state.

Privately insured people with cancer were diagnosed earlier and lived longer than those who were uninsured or were covered by Medicaid, according to two recent studies.

Cat-scratch disease, as the name suggests, is spread by cats. It has long been considered a mild illness, but a study finds that people are getting more serious complications, which can be fatal.

And kissing kittens increases the risk of being infected.

Yes, It Is Possible To Get Your Flu Shot Too Soon

Sep 15, 2016

The pitches from pharmacy chains started in August: Come in and get your flu shot.

Convenience is touted. So are incentives. CVS offers a 20-percent-off shopping pass for everyone who gets a shot, while Walgreens donates toward international vaccination efforts.

The start of flu season is still weeks, if not months, away. Yet marketing of the vaccine has become an almost year-round effort that starts when the shots become available in August and is hyped as long as the supply lasts — often into April or May.

Nigeria has to get rid of polio — again.

Last year, the World Health Organization declared the country to be "polio-free." That milestone meant the disease was gone from the entire continent of Africa, a major triumph in the multibillion-dollar global effort to eradicate the disease.

But that declaration of "polio-free" turned out to be premature.

Would You Like Some Insurance With Your Insurance?

Sep 13, 2016

For the first time in her life, 26-year-old freelance designer Susannah Lohr had to shop for health insurance this year.

She called up a major insurer in the St. Louis area where she lives, and it offered her a plan with a hefty $6,000 deductible — that's the amount she'd have to cover herself before the insurance kicks in.

When she balked, the salesman on the phone suggested that she could buy a "gap plan," a separate policy for $50 a month to cover her deductible.

A living history museum usually conjures up images of butter churns and anvils. At Den Gamle By (The Old Town) Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, you'll find all that. But tucked away in one corner of this museum, there's also something different — an entire apartment straight out of the 1950s.

The "House of Memories" is not usually open to the public, and it's not aimed at schoolchildren sent to learn about a distant and exotic past.

Five states are voting this fall on whether marijuana should be legal, like alcohol, for recreational use. That has sparked questions about what we know — and don't know — about marijuana's effect on the brain.

Kratom Advocates Speak Out Against Proposed Government Ban

Sep 12, 2016

Kratom is made from the leaves of a small tree native to Southeast Asia that is a relative of the coffee plant. According to David Kroll, a pharmacologist and medical writer, farmers and indigenous people have used it for hundreds of years as both a stimulant to increase work output and also at the end of the day as a way to relax.

The leaves are often brewed like a tea, or crushed and mixed with water. In the U.S., kratom has become popular among people coping with chronic pain and others trying to wean themselves off opioids or alcohol.

Karisa Rowland is one of them.

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

Nobody wants to be attacked by a chigger. These six-legged mite larva — so small they're invisible to the naked eye — have a powerful bite that causes severe itching. They also transmit a disease called scrub typhus, named for the forest undergrowth, or scrub, that is home to the chiggers.

What leads some people to say no — rather than yes — to vaccines? A survey of nearly 66,000 people about attitudes toward immunization has found some surprising results. In France, 41 percent of those surveyed said they did not have confidence in the safety of vaccines. By contrast, in Bangladesh, fewer than one percent of those surveyed expressed a lack of confidence.