Science & Health

All sciences, health & medical news

The World Health Organization says there is now scientific consensus that the Zika virus is connected with microcephaly — a condition in which babies are born with very small heads and brain damage.

Scientists have been working for months to confirm a link between Zika and microcephaly, ever since Brazil reported a startling increase in cases last fall.

It was a controversial move when Madison, Wis., decided to replace all its lead pipes in 2001. But that decision put the city ahead of the curve — allowing it to avoid the lead water contamination that is plaguing cities like Flint, Mich., now.

Madison started using copper instead of lead water pipes in the late 1920s. The bulk of the lead lines were located in the older part of the city, which is downtown near Wisconsin's state Capitol.

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A lone hunter stealthily stalking its prey; a shrill cry in the night.

The price of quinoa tripled from 2006 to 2013 as America and Europe discovered this new superfood. That led to scary media reports that the people who grew it in the high Andes mountains of Bolivia and Peru could no longer afford to eat it. And while, as we reported, groups working on the ground tried to spread the word that your love of quinoa was actually helping Andean farmers, that was still anecdote rather than evidence.

One of the keys to providing good care in nursing homes is simply having enough staff. The federal government says about a quarter of all nursing home complaints can be traced back to low staffing levels. And studies have connected low staff levels to lousy treatment. The state of New Mexico connects it to fraud.

Ever stood on the coastline, gazing out over the horizon, and wondered what's on the other side? Pondered where you'd end up if you could fly straight ahead until you hit land?

Turns out the answer might be surprising. And even if you pulled out an atlas — or, more realistically, your smartphone — you might have trouble figuring it out. Lines of latitude won't help, and drawing a path on most maps will lead you astray.

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When a Connecticut woman who was HIV-positive died earlier this month, her family decided to donate her organs to others who needed them.

Doctors in Maryland announced Wednesday that they performed two landmark, successful surgeries with her kidney and liver — transplanting the organs to HIV-positive patients.

Scientists have discovered a well-preserved 305 million-year-old arachnid that is "almost a spider" in France. In a new journal article, they say the fossil sheds some light on the origins of "true" spiders.

The main point of distinction: This newly discovered arachnid very likely could produce silk but lacked the spinnerets used by true spiders to, well, spin it, the scientists say. The researchers say it belongs to a "sister group" to the real-deal spiders.

In the 1980s and '90s, many doctors told women going through menopause that they should take female hormones — estrogen and progestin — to alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and sleep problems. The hormone therapy was thought to have other benefits, too, like preventing broken bones, colon cancer and heart attacks.

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Five years after an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Japanese authorities say a long-planned "ice wall" around the leaking facility can be turned on.

The underground refrigeration system that should create the frozen barrier was completed last month — more than a year behind schedule, The Associated Press reports.

On a cold night in January 2012, Dustin Bergsing climbed on top of a crude oil storage tank in North Dakota's Bakken oil field. His job was to open the hatch on top and drop a rope inside to measure the level of oil. But just after midnight, a co-worker found him dead, slumped next to the open hatch.

A century ago, your typical chicken was really kind of scrawny. It took about four months to grow to a weight of 3 pounds. One result: Americans really didn't eat much chicken.

Today, the typical broiler, or meat chicken, turns feed into meat at a mind-boggling pace. Compared with the bird of yesteryear, it grows to twice the size in half the time. But some animal welfare advocates want the poultry industry to turn back the clock. Modern meat chickens are growing so fast, they say, that they are suffering.

First, Alzheimer's takes a person's memory. Then it takes their family's money.

That's the central finding of a report published Wednesday by the Alzheimer's Association on the financial burden friends and families bear when they care for someone with dementia.

Some parts of Oklahoma and Texas now have about the same risk of an earthquake as parts of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big difference is, the quakes in Oklahoma and Texas are "induced" — they're caused by oil and gas operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

How do you fix a problem if you don't know its size?

Many states — including some that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis — don't know how many of their youngest residents each year are born physically dependent on those drugs. They rely on estimates.

Pennsylvania is one of those states. Ted Dallas, head of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, calls the information he's working with "reasonably good."

Amanda Hensley started abusing prescription painkillers when she was just a teenager. For years, she managed to function and hold down jobs. She even quit opioids for a while when she was pregnant with her now 4-year-old son. But she relapsed.

Hensley says she preferred drugs like Percocet and morphine, but opted for heroin when she was short on cash.

By the time she discovered she was pregnant last year, she couldn't quit.

Carolyn Rossi has been a registered nurse for 27 years, and she's been fiercely protective of infants in her intensive care unit — babies born too soon, babies born with physical and cognitive abnormalities and, increasingly, babies born dependent on opioids.

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Those of you working on your golf swing may hear this.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOLF SWING)

SIMON: But Jonathan Berger hears this.

(SOUNDBITE OF VOCALIZATION)

COMPUTERIZED VOICE: (Singing) La...

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People in Flint are still lining up for bottled water. Two years ago, the city switched its drinking water source to the Flint River. But the water wasn't properly treated, damaging city pipes, which have been leaching lead into the drinking water ever since.

Now Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says he has a plan.

On Monday, he released a 75 point-plan to target short-term, intermediate-term and long-term needs in Flint.

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This story is first in our four-part series Treating the Tiniest Opioid Patients, a collaboration produced by NPR's National & Science Desks, local member stations and Kaiser Health News.

Scientists announced Thursday that they have built a single-celled organism that has just 473 genes — likely close to the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain its life. The development, they say, could eventually lead to new manufacturing methods.

Around 1995, a few top geneticists set out on a quest: to make an organism that had only the genes that were absolutely essential for its survival. A zero-frills life.

It was a heady time.

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I've been trying to get the perfect crust on my fried chicken for a while now. To be specific, I've been working on a dish called Chongqing Sichuan spicy chicken or chicken with chilies. This can be one of the most transformative experiences to ever come out of a wok, and I've been chasing a crisp, almost glassy crunch on my chicken for a long time.

The Department of Labor is issuing a long-awaited and controversial rule Thursday aimed at better protecting workers from inhaling silica dust.

The new rule dramatically reduces the allowed exposure limits for workers in a slew of industries, from construction to manufacturing to fracking.

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