NPR Health

A rare outbreak of botulism has hospitalized nine people and killed one man in northern California, health officials say.

The outbreak began early last month when several people fell ill after eating nacho cheese sauce bought at a gas station in Walnut Grove, Calif., just outside Sacramento.

One in eight Americans — 42 million people — still struggles to get enough to eat. And while that number has been going down recently, hunger appears to be getting worse in some economically distressed areas, especially in rural communities.

Food banks that serve these areas are also feeling the squeeze, as surplus food supplies dwindle but the lines of people seeking help remain long.

When planning a summer trip abroad, it's easy to think, "Oh, I'll just hop over to a travel clinic, and they'll tell me everything I need to know — and do — to keep from getting sick."

But that's not always the case.

A study published last week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that travel clinics missed giving the measles vaccine to about half of eligible travelers.

Back in January, Republicans boasted they would deliver a "repeal and replace" bill for the Affordable Care Act to President Donald Trump's desk by the end of the month.

In the interim, that bravado has faded as their efforts stalled and they found out how complicated undoing a major law can be. With summer just around the corner, and most of official Washington swept up in scandals surrounding Trump, the health overhaul delays are starting to back up the rest of the 2018 agenda.

If you have ever noticed an itchy or tingly sensation in your mouth after biting into a raw apple, carrot, banana or any of the fruits and veggies listed here, read on.

People who are allergic to pollen are accustomed to runny eyes and sniffles this time of year. But some seasonal allergy sufferers have it worse: They can develop allergic reactions to common fruits and vegetables.

Kids under the age of 1 should avoid fruit juice, older kids should drink it only sparingly and all children should focus, instead, on eating whole fruit, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The pediatricians' group previously advised against giving fruit juice to infants under 6 months, but expanded that recommendation given evidence linking juice consumption to tooth decay and to gaining too much or too little weight.

Dr. Dilantha Ellegala, a brain surgeon, trained someone who isn't a doctor to do brain surgery.

That is the story featured in the new book A Surgeon in the Village by journalist Tony Bartelme.

It took an explosion and 13 pounds of iron to usher in the modern era of neuroscience.

In 1848, a 25-year-old railroad worker named Phineas Gage was blowing up rocks to clear the way for a new rail line in Cavendish, Vt. He would drill a hole, place an explosive charge, then pack in sand using a 13-pound metal bar known as a tamping iron.

In recent months, some Brits have expressed their distaste for European Union regulations — a frustration that helped motivate the Brexit vote last summer.

But this weekend, new regulations on the tobacco industry came into force in the United Kingdom, and they go even further than what an EU directive required.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The newly-released details of the Trump administration's version of the "Mexico City policy" are raising many questions about its impact not only on abortion but also on preventing HIV and infectious diseases like malaria.

The policy is named for the place where it was introduced by President Ronald Reagan, at a U.N. conference, in 1984. The aim was to cut off U.S. funding to nongovernmental organizations that "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning."

More than half of people say they've suffered lower back pain in the past year, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll.

That's not a surprise; low back pain is very common, and one of the biggest reasons that people seek medical care. But people told us that they're making very different choices in how they treat that pain, with some stark differences among age groups and income levels.

The Slums Of Buenos Aires Are Too Wet And Too Dry

May 19, 2017

Margarita Garcia has two problems: Too much water — and not enough water. And often at the same time.

On a hot summer day in March, she headed home from her cleaning job and found that her street was flooded with water.

The clouds had broken with more rain than her neighborhood — a slum on the southern outskirts of Buenos Aires — could handle. The water rose to her knees by the time she got to her home, the bottom floor in a four-story slapdash brick building. That morning, she'd set up a blockade using a big wooden board, but it hadn't kept the water from seeping in.

Is 'Internet Addiction' Real?

May 18, 2017

When her youngest daughter, Naomi, was in middle school, Ellen watched the teen disappear behind a screen. Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating herself in her room for hours at a time. (NPR has agreed to use only the pair's middle names, to protect the teen's medical privacy.)

"She started just lying there, not moving and just being on the phone," says Ellen. "I was at a loss about what to do."

When it comes to breast-feeding, orangutans are the champs.

Past studies of orangutans in the wild have found that mothers nurse their offspring for up to seven years, longer than any other primate.

But a new study of orangutan teeth suggests even that estimate is low, a team reports Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

A Tale Of Four Famines

May 17, 2017

Famine is spreading in three African countries. Climate and conflict have left tens of millions with little to no access to food in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. And across the Gulf of Aden, Yemen is also facing a shortage of food driven by war and the changing environment.

As the GOP health bill moves to the U.S. Senate, many consumers and lawmakers worry that people who have pre-existing conditions won't be able to find affordable health coverage if the bill becomes law.

There are a number of strategies under consideration, but one option touted by House Republicans borrows an idea that Maine used several years ago. It's called an invisible high-risk pool — "invisible" because people in Maine didn't even know when they were in it.

Browse through some turn-of-the-century American cookbooks, and it's obvious that popular tastes have changed (such as the presence of fried cornmeal mush and the absence of cilantro). But more striking than the shift in flavors and ingredients is the focus on feeding those who are sick — or, to use the parlance of the time, "cooking for invalids."

In the spring of my first-year of law school, while taking an exam, I had a grand mal seizure — the type of seizures people see in the movies with spasms on the floor. My memory is fuzzy from that time. I remember a few of my classmates offering me water afterward. I was told that many stopped taking the exam to make sure that I didn't injure myself while having a seizure, sitting in my chair.

The world loses about 3,000 adolescents each day. That adds up to 1.2 million deaths a year. And with a bit more investment, the majority of those deaths can be prevented, according to a global study released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization.

Many Democrats are hoping the GOP health care bill that narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives is going to push political momentum their way, and result in big gains in the 2018 midterm elections. A special election next week in Montana may be an early test for this theory.

When's the last time you had a glass of cow's milk?

Americans are drinking a lot less milk than they used to. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the average person drinks 18 gallons a year. Back in the 1970s it was more like 30 gallons a year. We once hoisted a glass with dinner, soaked our breakfast cereal or dipped into the occasional milkshake. This habitual milk drinking was no accident.

Volunteers at an overdose prevention site in Vancouver, Canada, say they saved the life of a rat named Snuggles after the little rodent overdosed on heroin.

Sarah Blyth, who co-founded the organization behind the prevention site, wrote about the rescue on Twitter. While Snuggles was initially described as a mouse, Blyth tells NPR that the pet is actually a rat.

The Greek poet Archilochus wrote, "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

There are many different interpretations of this parable, but psychologist Phil Tetlock argues it's a way of understanding two cognitive styles: Foxes have different strategies for different problems. They are comfortable with nuance, they can live with contradictions. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, focus on the big picture. They reduce every problem to one organizing principle.

On Monday, authorities in Yemen declared a state of emergency due to a sharp rise in cholera deaths.

Yemen has been at war for more than two years — a Saudi-led coalition has been battling Shiite Houthi rebels aligned with Iran — leaving a reported 10,000 dead. The fighting has decimated much of the country's infrastructure, including its medical facilities. The World Health Organization said in April that fewer than half of Yemen's medical centers were functioning to capacity.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In the 1964 presidential race, Barry Goldwater's political extremism was depicted as mentally unstable by his critics.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

"If you become chief resident are you just going to get pregnant and have a baby?" asked the silver-haired male attending physician as I sat interviewing for the prestigious academic position of chief internal medicine resident. "That's what all the female chiefs do, and I'm tired of it," he added, shaking his head in clear disgust.

When 18-year-old Hannah Vanderkooy feels extremely tired or anxious, she heads to a spacelike capsule for a nap — during school. Like many teens struggling to get good grades and maybe even a college scholarship, Vanderkooy doesn't get enough sleep.

And she's not alone. Various studies indicate that chronically sleepy and stressed-out teenagers might be the new normal among U.S. adolescents who are competing for grades, colleges and, eventually, jobs.

Bears do it; bats do it. So do guinea pigs, dogs and humans. They all yawn. It's a common animal behavior, but one that is something of a mystery.

There's still no consensus on the purpose of a yawn, says Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Provine has studied what he calls "yawn science" since the early 1980s, and he's published dozens of research articles on it. He says the simple yawn is not so simple.

American Indian and Alaska Native families are much more likely to have an infant die suddenly and unexpectedly, and that risk has remained higher than in other ethnic groups since public health efforts were launched to prevent sudden infant death syndrome in the 1990s. African-American babies also face a higher risk, a study finds.

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