Megan Milanese

Health News Florida Intern

Megan Milanese is an intern with WUSF’s health reporting project Health News Florida.

Megan was born in Florida and traversed most of the southeast portion of the nation before settling down in Tampa, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida in 2010.  

After a year as an Americorps volunteer, she started pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health and is a current MPH candidate at the University of South Florida. Since she is also a social media and promotion junkie, she is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Public Health and Social Marketing. 

In 2013, Florida had the highest number of newly diagnosed HIV case rates in the nation.

All six of the large metropolitan areas in Florida -- including Tampa, Orlando and Miami-Dade -- reported more cases of HIV diagnosis than many states as a whole. If Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach were a state, it would rank fifth nationally in the number of new cases. 

A proposal that would redesign the state group health insurance plan passed the Florida House Committee on Health and Human Services Thursday morning. 

The proposed redesign could affect the 360,000 current employees, retirees and their dependents that are covered by the program.

Empath Health

Julie Martin sits at a table in a nondescript room at Suncoast Hospice in Clearwater. She strums an instrument called a Qchord, a type of electronic autoharp.

"Hello my friends. Hello my friends," she sings in a slow, comforting voice. "Hello my friends, it's nice to see you today."

Martin, a board certified music therapist, sings "The Hello Song" with every Alzheimer's patient, every time she sees them.  She said music can help these patients reconnect to their lost memories.

Music is often part of some of our biggest moments. From singing happy birthday to your favorite song that you always sing along to, music can help you connect and remember. Studies have shown that music can also become a form of therapy.

Only seven states require a license for music therapists. Florida isn't one of them. But some music therapy professionals in the Sunshine State are trying to change that.

 After John Jonchuck was accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe off a Pinellas County bridge last month, The Florida Department of Children and Families deployed a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to investigate the agency's handling of the case.

According to the official report released Monday, the agency could have done a better job to protect Phoebe from her tragic death.

Florida Measles Cases Stem From Travelers

Feb 2, 2015
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Four cases of measles have been identified in Florida in the past two weeks, all of which involve travelers.

Two of the cases diagnosed involved international travelers, and the infected people had unknown or no measles vaccine, State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong said in a statement.

The Florida Department of Health reports that so far, no state residents have so far been diagnosed with measles, a disease that is experiencing the second-biggest outbreak in the nation in at least 15 years.

Tampa General Hospital & USF Health Bariatric Center

Many people struggle with their weight, and former athletes are no exception.

But athletes who gain weight once they retire are at a higher risk for serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. That's why four retired NFL players, including two from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, teamed up as part of a weight loss study by Tampa General Hospital and the USF Health Bariatric Center to tackle their obesity.

Getty Images

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It can also cause cancer.

Associated Press

 A father accused of throwing his 5-year-old daughter off of a bridge to her death last week was ordered Monday to undergo a mental health evaluation and was appointed a public defender.

John Jonchuck appeared to refuse to answer questions during the hearing in Pinellas County. When a judge asked Jonchuck at a first appearance hearing last week if he wanted a court-appointed attorney, Jonchuck said he wanted to "leave it in the hands of God."

Hospitals in Miami-Dade County are reporting increases in the amount of flu-related emergency room visits compared to a year ago, the Miami Herald reports. According to a report from the county Department of Health, 5.9 percent of ER visits between Dec. 28 and Jan. 3 were because of the flu. Last year at that time, the flu accounted for 3.6 percent of the ER visits in Miami-Dade, the Herald reports. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Florida is a major player in widespread influenza reported in 43 states so far this season.

Levels of transmission have reached epidemic proportions, according to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials say that a mutation in the flu virus may be to blame for the rising number of flu cases this year.

A slight change in the flu virus may be partially responsible for the increased flu activity this season, said Dr. David Berman, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at All Children's Hospital in St Petersburg.

Megan Milanese

Christian Ward lounges on a couch in the University of South Florida student center in Tampa. He props crutches against the armrest and stretches out his leg, which is covered in a cast up to his thigh.

Like a lot of college students, Ward’s parents handle his health insurance. He'll tell you that having it definitely came in handy during his moment of need.

Megan Milanese

Hillsborough County's Health Department director is going of the offensive to combat fears about Ebola.

Douglas Holt said that concerns have grown since two health care workers in Texas tested positive for the disease after treating a man who died from it. 

But the real threats to U.S. safety in regard to Ebola are fear and panic, he said. The key to controlling the outbreak is early identification, isolation, and identification.

Last year, about half of Hillsborough County's Medicare recipients were vaccinated for the flu. But during most flu seasons, adults 65 years of age and older account for 90 percent of all flu-related deaths.

That's why the Hillsborough County Department of Aging is teaming with the National Council on Aging’s “Flu + You” campaign to encourage seniors to get flu shots at the Senior Fun Fest Friday) in Brandon.

Six Florida groups have been awarded a total of $4.7 million in federal Healthy Start grants aimed at improved maternal health and lower infant mortality rates.

The Florida grants are part of $65 million that will go  to 87 organizations in 33 states, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

The largest Florida grant, $1.4 million, was awarded to REACHUP Inc. of Tampa.

Other state award-winners were:

Megan Milanese / WUSF

 The large digital thermometer attached to a car read 88 degrees when the St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition started a recent demonstration.

The interior temperature quickly rose to 118 degrees, much higher than the temperatures pediatric surgeon Dr. Beth Walford says are potentially lethal.

 Lt. Steve Lawrence, Deputy Fire Marshal with St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue
Megan Milanese / WUSF

Over the past year, authorities responded to 183 emergency calls for children who were locked in cars in Pinellas County. Now, St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue is partnering with the Suncoast Safe Kids Coalition led by All Children's Hospital to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving kids unattended in cars.

U.S. Navy

Florida has the highest rate of unintentional child drownings in the country. Since 2011, more than 200 children have drowned statewide.

However, something as simple as swim lessons can make a big difference.

Monica Mirza is the director at the New Tampa YMCA, which has teamed up with the University Area Community Development Center to provide free swim lessons to low-income children.  According to Mirza, swim lessons can cut the risk of drowning by 88 percent.

Wikimedia Commons

Three Florida cities have been named the least walkable metro areas in the country, according to a new study released by the George Washington University School of Business and nonprofit group Smart Growth America.

Orlando was last in the ranking of 30 metropolitan areas. Tampa was only slightly better, at 28th. Miami came in at 23rd.

Sarasota Police Department


A 2-year-old girl in Sarasota has died after her father left her in his vehicle Sunday morning. It's the first death from vehicular heatstroke in Florida this year. 

According to the Sarasota Police Department, the child's father, 23-year-old Uriel Hernandez, left her in the vehicle when he went inside to get his cell phone charger. Instead of coming right back out, he fell asleep.