Health & Science

Sometimes 11-year-old B. comes home from school in tears. Maybe she was taunted about her weight that day, called "ugly." Or her so-called friends blocked her on their phones. Some nights she is too anxious to sleep alone and climbs into her mother's bed. It's just the two of them at home, ever since her father was deported back to West Africa when she was a toddler.

The State Department said that a U.S. government employee assigned to Guangzhou, China, has reported experiencing "vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that "the medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent" with the symptoms reported by Americans working at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. "We have medical teams that are moving to be on the ground there. We are working to figure out what took place both in Havana, and now in China, as well."

Though Americans spend an estimated $80 billion to $100 billion each year in hopes of easing their aching backs, the evidence is mounting that many pricey standard treatments — including surgery and spinal injections — are often ineffective and can even worsen and prolong the problem.

Covered California, the state's health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, has devised what could be a powerful new way to hold hospitals accountable for the quality of their care.

Starting in less than two years, if the hospitals haven't met certain designated targets for safety and quality, they'll risk being excluded from the "in-network" designation of health plans sold on the state's insurance exchange.

Legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to get access to experimental drugs is headed to the president's desk.

The House on Tuesday passed a "right-to-try" bill that was approved by the Senate in 2017.

"People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to find a cure," said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, on the House floor Tuesday.

The bill, which President Trump is expected to sign, has patient advocates divided.

More coal miners in central Appalachia have suffered the advanced stages of the deadly disease black lung than previous government research has found, and more miners working in the region today have earlier stages of the disease.

Those are two of the findings in a bundle of studies released Tuesday and expected to be released soon, which focus on the epidemic of black lung disease first reported by NPR in 2016.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Every month, about 300 refugees apply for asylum in Denmark, seeking shelter from conflicts and persecution in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere. And many of them need help beyond finding a new home.

A 2013 study calculated that 30 percent of refugees in high-income host countries have experienced torture; about 150 refugees seek treatment at the Danish Institute Against Torture every year.

Among the lawmakers' concerns: How Facebook might make up possible abuses to its users — and whether Zuckerberg himself is telling the truth when he promises to obey Europe's privacy laws.

For the first time, scientists have videotaped sharks traveling a 500-mile-long "shark highway" in the Pacific, and they plan to turn it into a protected wildlife corridor in the ocean.

At least 10 deaths in the southern Indian state of Kerala are being blamed on an outbreak of the Nipah virus – a disease thought to be transmitted by bats and other animals.

Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shylaja told reporters Tuesday that two other people are in critical condition from Nipah, which has a mortality rate ranging from 40 to 70 percent. There is no vaccine for the disease, which was first seen in Southeast Asia in 1998.

If you have a genetic mutation that increases your risk for a treatable medical condition, would you want to know? For many people the answer is yes. But typically such information has not been a part of routine primary care.

For patients at Geisinger Health System, that could soon change. Starting in the next month or so, the Pennsylvania-based system will offer DNA sequencing to 1,000 patients, with the goal of eventually extending the offer to all 3 million Geisinger patients.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you've avoided romaine lettuce because of the E. coli outbreak, you can start buying it again.

After weeks of warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to toss out romaine grown in the Yuma, Ariz., region, the CDC says there are no longer any greens coming from this region.

The romaine that's for sale now in restaurants and supermarkets nationwide is coming from California's Salinas Valley.

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