NPR Health

As Hurricane Florence hits North Carolina, Amanda McKee's only concern is for her animals at 1870 Farm outside Chapel Hill. McKee and her husband, David Schwartz, transformed the nearly 150-year-old farm, and another in Durham, into an agritourism destination that now houses horses, donkeys, a cow, alpacas, goats, sheep, chickens and a host of other animals, including a baby alpaca named Xanadu that lives with the family full time.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

More than 100 people were waiting to be rescued from homes and vehicles Friday morning in New Bern, N.C., after Hurricane Florence brought severe flooding to the area. Officials say more than 100 people have already been rescued in the area overnight.

Six swift water rescue teams have been working since Thursday afternoon to evacuate individuals and families, in some cases, from the roofs of their homes, the New Bern Public Information Officer Colleen Roberts said Friday afternoon.

It's early in the morning and 20-year-old Aaron Reid looks like he's sleepwalking.

His head nods forward and he shuffles a bit as he heads toward the pediatric clinic at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.

Reid, who has been fighting leukemia since he was 9-years old, is experiencing intense pain.

He can't say much at the moment, so his mother, Tracie Glascox, speaks for him. "He's been complaining of pain in his ankles, his knees and his arms," she tells the nurse.

Botham Jean was remembered Thursday for his dedication to service, his deep faith, and for having a ready smile and an open heart. He will be buried in Saint Lucia, but the service in Texas was a chance for American friends to say goodbye.

"A friend is the family that you choose. And let me tell you Botham chose everyone," said his friend Alexis Stossel. "If Botham was in this room, nobody would ever feel left out."

Audie Cornish talks with Dr. Leana Wen, who is leaving her job as Baltimore Health Commissioner to become the president of Planned Parenthood.

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Government scientists have presented new evidence that the plastic additive BPA isn't a health threat.

Low doses of the chemical given to hundreds of rats, "did not elicit clear, biologically plausible adverse effects," said K. Barry Delclos, a research pharmacologist at the Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research.

Kentucky County Water Crisis

Sep 13, 2018

In Martin County, Ky., many residents haven't drunk water from their taps in years. The county is one of the poorest in America, and its water infrastructure is crumbling.

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Starting next year, Medicare Advantage plans will be able to add restrictions on expensive, injectable drugs administered by doctors to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration and other serious diseases.

17 Apps To Help You Get Through The Hurricane

Sep 13, 2018

In addition to getting flashlights, bottled water and food, hurricane preparation these days includes stockpiling apps on your phone. For those in the path of Hurricane Florence in North and South Carolina, having the right apps can be lifeline during and after the storm. Here are some apps — mostly free — that are useful to download if you're in a hurricane zone:

For immediate assistance:

Almost 20 years ago, a mentally ill man named Andrew Goldstein pushed Kendra Webdale into an oncoming train in New York City. She was killed instantly and Goldstein, who’d suffered from schizophrenia since childhood, was sent to prison.

The crime caught national attention, reinvigorating a debate about the care of people with severe mental illnesses.

Farmer Gao Yongfei is paying much closer attention to his more than 5,000 pigs than ever before.

That's because hundreds of pigs at farms nearby are dying from a mysterious virus, and Gao and his staff are now vigilantly checking his herd for symptoms of African swine fever.

"You know the pig is sick if its mouth has turned dark and it's acting crazy," says the 64-year-old owner of Yongfei Livestock Farm. "When you find a pig that has the fever, you need to slaughter it immediately."

The largest insurer in Tennessee has announced it will no longer cover prescriptions for what was once a blockbuster pain reliever. It's the latest insurance company to turn against OxyContin, whose maker, Purdue Pharma, faces dozens of lawsuits related to its high-pressure sales tactics around the country and contribution to the opioid crisis.

States serve as "laboratories of democracy," as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said. And states are also labs for health policy, launching all kinds of experiments lately to temper spending on pharmaceuticals.

No wonder. Drugs are one of the fastest rising health care costs for many consumers and are a key reason health care spending dominates many state budgets — crowding out roads, schools and other priorities.

Updated at 7:45 p.m. ET

Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, has been named the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

It will be the first time in nearly five decades that a doctor is the head of Planned Parenthood, according to the organization. She's replacing longtime President Cecile Richards, who announced in January that she would be stepping down.

The Food and Drug Administration announced a set of major new enforcement actions Wednesday aimed at reducing the sales and marketing of electronic cigarettes to teenagers.

Saying vaping among teenagers has reached "an epidemic proportion," the agency said it was taking a "series of critical and historic" measures to curb the alarming trends.

Cristina Rivell has been struggling with an opioid addiction since she was a teenager — going in and out of rehab for five years. The most recent time, her doctor prescribed her a low dose of buprenorphine (often known by its brand name, Suboxone), a drug that helps curb cravings for stronger opioids and prevents the symptoms of withdrawal.

More Older Americans Are Turning To Marijuana

Sep 12, 2018

Members of the generation that came of age in the era of marijuana are reaching for weed in their golden years.

A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence this month suggests that increasing numbers of middle aged and older adults are using marijuana — and using it a lot.

An intriguing study published this week suggests that bonobos, among the closest relatives to humans, are surprisingly willing to hand over food to a pal. But they didn't share tools.

The discovery adds a new wrinkle to scientists' efforts to understand the evolutionary origins of people's unusual propensity to help others.

Kids with ADHD are easily distracted. Barn owls are not.

So a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is studying these highly focused predatory birds in an effort to understand the brain circuits that control attention.

The team's long-term goal is to figure out what goes wrong in the brains of people with attention problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Guillermo does not exist — on social media at least. He has a Facebook account, but he doesn't publicly use his real name. He doesn't have a profile picture, doesn't show his location, and never posts a single thing. He mostly logs in to read about sports.

Guillermo asked that his last name be withheld — he worries about his family. They still live in Venezuela. Amid political and economic chaos, over a million Venezuelans have left the country in the last two years.

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Santa Rosa Beach, in Florida's Walton County, is a quiet place with sugar-white sand, a pleasant surf and signs warning visitors to stay out. The largely rural county on Florida's Panhandle is at the center of a battle over one of the state's most precious resources: its beaches. Most of the 26 miles of beaches are already privately owned. As of July 1, homeowners with beachfront property in Walton County can declare their beach private and off-limits to the public. The new law has sparked a standoff between wealthy homeowners and other local residents.

Around the world, people are struggling for access to drinking water. All Things Considered is examining the forces at play in separating the haves from the have-nots — from natural disasters to crumbling infrastructure and corruption.

In Korangi, a slum neighborhood of Karachi, a sprawling port city of some 16 million people in Pakistan, there's no running water.

So how do people get the water they need to drink, to cook, to wash up and to clean their homes?

When Linda Tock heard her 5-year-old telling her he was going to be sick, she moved quickly. She sprinted for a trash can, ready to run upstairs to help her son, with her husband, Simon, close behind her. Then it happened: a rain of vomit from the balcony above. "I put the trash can over my head," Tock recalls. "We just got showered." Puke splashed onto every surface — and even into her unlucky husband's open mouth.

Matt Arteaga, 51, is one of about 500 people who got sick this summer in an outbreak linked to McDonald's salads. The cause was a parasite, cyclospora.

Arteaga fell ill on a Thursday afternoon in June. He was in his office in Danville, Ill., when he says the symptoms came on quickly. "The chills, and body aches, severe cramping, sharp pain in my stomach," Arteaga recalls.

When Drew Calver had a heart attack last year, his health plan paid nearly $56,000 for the 44-year-old's emergency hospital stay at St. David's Medical Center in Austin, Texas, a hospital that wasn't in his insurance network. But the hospital charged Calver another $108,951. That sum — a so-called balance bill — was the difference between what the hospital and his insurer thought his care was worth.

Though in-network hospitals must accept previously contracted rates from health plans, out-of-network hospitals can try to bill as they like.

Dr. Leslie Norins is willing to hand over $1 million of his own money to anyone who can clarify something: Is Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia worldwide, caused by a germ?

By "germ" he means microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In other words, Norins, a physician turned publisher, wants to know if Alzheimer's is infectious.

When you go through airport security, you might wish you had a pair of gloves on like the TSA agents do.

Researchers have evidence that the plastic trays in security lines are a haven for respiratory viruses. The trays likely harbor more of these pathogens than the flushing button on the airport toilets, researchers reported last week in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Eww.

The U.S. is in the middle of a steep and sustained increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

So how are public health officials responding?

In northwest Oregon's Clackamas County, health officials have decided to ask anyone who comes in with an STD who their sexual partners are — and then track those partners down.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

As drug-related deaths rise to record numbers, at least a dozen U.S. cities are considering opening supervised injection sites, where people can use illicit drugs with trained staff present, ready to respond in case of an overdose.

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