Science & Health

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Rains Improving Drought Conditions In Alabama

Sep 7, 2012 / National Drought Mitigation Center

Heavy rains have helped ease drought conditions in Alabama, but about one-third of the state remains unusually dry. The latest update from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows about two-thirds of the state is drought-free, a big improvement from just a few weeks ago. But a third of the state remains abnormally dry or in a drought. Dry conditions cover a wedge-shaped area extending from the Hale-Bibb county line eastward to the Georgia line. Conditions are worst in about a dozen counties that include the Auburn area.

Researchers report that women with genetic mutations that put them at dramatically increased risk of developing breast cancer may also face a heightened risk from radiation used during medical screening and diagnosis.

The imaging tools that help doctors identify disease, injury or damage to the body have long been known to carry some risk of cancer, in large part because ionizing radiation can damage the genetic material in the body.

San Francisco is trying a new tactic to fight AIDS. Health workers are aggressively testing people for HIV and then immediately putting those who test positive on potent antiretroviral drugs.

BP Says Old Oil From Spill Exposed By Isaac

Sep 5, 2012
NOAA's National Ocean Servie / Flickr

BP says Hurricane Isaac's scouring waves exposed deposits of buried tar on the Louisiana coast that were left over from its massive oil spill in 2010. Louisiana officials closed a stretch of beach near Fourchon on Tuesday after scouts said they found large tar mats. BP acknowledged Wednesday the oil was from its spill.

UAB Sports Medicine / Children's Hospital of Alabama.

It's football season and for many young athletes that means lots of practices and training to get in shape for the big game every week. It's also a prime time for these players to get injured. Drew Ferguson is a licensed athletic trainer and Director of Sports Medicine at Children's Hospital of Alabama. Ferguson says extra care needs to be taken at youth levels to keep players safe because they lack the resources of the older counterparts.

An estimated 14.9 percent of U.S. households — 17.9 million in total — "had difficulty" at some point last year getting food because they just didn't have enough money or other resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported this morning.

In 2010, 14.5 percent of households were similarly "food insecure" at some point, USDA says.

Even worse:

Flooding Causes Damage In West, South Alabama

Sep 4, 2012

Flooding caused by remnants of Hurricane Isaac has caused extensive damage in parts of western and southern Alabama.

Swirling water lapped at the doors of businesses in downtown Selma. At least 20 cars filled with quick-rising water at an automotive dealership before workers could move them.

In Gordo, about two dozen houses were flooded, two bridges were washed out and several families had to be rescued in the town of 1,750 people.

And a commissary that provides food for thousands of elderly people in western Alabama filled with about a foot of water in Brent.

After decades of encouragement, Americans are getting their blood pressure checked more often.

And there's a little more good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most adults with high blood pressure are being treated these days.

But, and you knew there had to be a but, more than half of all Americans with hypertension — about 36 million people, all told — still haven't got it under control.

McDonald's Goes Vegetarian — In India

Sep 4, 2012

McDonald's, home of the iconic Big Mac, is going vegetarian. Well, at least in India, where 20 to 42 percent or more of the population (depending on how you count) eschews meat, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

A growing number of companies are changing their health insurance plans to include benefits for transgender employees.

Yet even though professional groups such as the American Medical Association recommend coverage of services for transgender people —who identify with a gender other than the one they were born as—many companies continue to hold back. One of their big worries is cost.

Yes, organics is a $29 billion industry and still growing. Something is pulling us toward those organic veggies that are grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

But if you're thinking that organic produce will help you stay healthier, a new finding may come as a surprise. A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds scant evidence of health benefits from organic foods.

This paragraph from NASA worried us:

"In one study, astronomers used WISE to identify about 2.5 million actively feeding supermassive black holes across the full sky, stretching back to distances more than 10 billion light-years away. About two-thirds of these objects never had been detected before because dust blocks their visible light. WISE easily sees these monsters because their powerful, accreting black holes warm the dust, causing it to glow in infrared light."

Scientists have known for decades that lab rats and mice will live far longer than normal if they're fed a super-low-calorie diet, and that's led some people to eat a near-starvation diet in the hopes that it will extend the human life span, too.

But a new study in monkeys suggests they may be disappointed.

The long-awaited results of this study, which started back in 1987, show that rhesus monkeys fed a diet with 30 percent fewer calories than normal did not live unusually long lives.

The eye of Isaac made its first landfall at Plaquemines Parish, a stretch of thin land southeast of New Orleans that extends into the Gulf from Louisiana.

According to the parish president, the damage there is just as bad, perhaps even worse, than what happened during Katrina.

In an interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep, Billy Nungesser said the parish's levee had been overtopped and parts of the parish that had never flooded during a hurricane were under 5 feet of water.



It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

The water rose so quickly along the coast of Louisiana, that it trapped two men whose job it was to keep it down.

INSKEEP: Two water pump operators were on the job in Plaquemines Parish near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The ocean spilled over a levee and surrounded them with water before they could get away.

When women go on a diet, we tend to avoid our favorite restaurants because they are filled with temptations — bread, booze and desserts. But are we doomed to sit in our kitchens eating salad alone while everyone else is headed out on the town if we want to keep the weight off?

Take heart, ladies. A new study of women in their 50s and early 60s finds they could eat out and still succeed at long-term weight loss.

Gulf Coast Residents Seek Safety In Ala. Shelters

Aug 28, 2012 / National Hurricane Center

Several hundred people are staying in shelters in Mobile and Baldwin counties during Hurricane Isaac. Juana Castillo said she drove with her mother, stepdad and brother from Metairie, La., to a shelter in Theodore. She said her dad lived through Katrina and he urged the family to leave Louisiana. A 75-year-old Mobile man, Tom Rowan, said he had the boat he calls home pulled out of the water and then went to a shelter. He said the water at Turner Marina where he docks his boat is up about a foot, but Isaac has been unimpressive so far.

If men could become pregnant, they'd probably visit the doctor more often.

But without a compelling inducement like contraception to get them in the door, they often miss out on sexual and reproductive health services that could protect not only them but also their partners.

If you're a student, you may have harbored the fantasy of learning lessons while you sleep. Who wouldn't want to stick on a pair of headphones, grab some shut-eye with a lesson about, say, Chinese history playing in his ears — and wake up with newly acquired knowledge of the Ming Dynasty?

Sadly, it doesn't work. The history lesson either keeps you from going to sleep, or it doesn't — in which case you don't learn it.



NEIL ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


Let's remember the man who spoke those words on the moon. Neil Armstrong died on Saturday after a lifetime that inspired many people, including Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of New York's Hayden Planetarium who is on the line. Good morning. Welcome back to the program.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Yeah, good morning. Thanks for having me back.

INSKEEP: So how did you meet Neil Armstrong?

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday announced its first major shift on circumcision in more than a decade, concluding that the health benefits of the procedure clearly outweigh any risks.

"There is clear evidence that supports the health benefits of circumcision," said Susan Blank, who led the 14-member task force that formulated the new policy being published in the journal Pediatrics.

Microsoft images

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The man who is temporarily overseeing funding for Alabama's health care program for the poor says Medicaid will be in deep trouble if voters do not approve a Sept. 18 referendum to take more than $437 million from a state trust fund and use it to prevent huge cuts in spending on state programs for three years. State Health Officer Don Williamson said without receiving money from the trust fund the Medicaid program would be $100 million in the red.


KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Forecasters say a strengthened Tropical Storm Isaac is bearing down on the Florida Keys. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Isaac was centered about 135 miles (220 kms) east-southeast of Key West at 8 a.m. EDT Sunday. The storm has top sustained winds of about 65 mph (100 kph) and is moving toward the west-northwest at 20 mph (31 kph). Hours earlier, Isaac's winds were clocked at about 60 mph (95 kph).

Former astronaut Neil Armstrong, known for his words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," has died. The first man ever to walk on the moon was 82.

Update at 5:15 p.m. ET:

Armstrong's family has released a statement, saying he died following cardiovascular procedures. NASA published it here. They say, "Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."


CINCINNATI (AP) — The family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, says he has died at age 82. A statement from the family says he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. It doesn't say where he died. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969. He radioed back to Earth the historic news of "one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.

Ala. Readying For Strike From Isaac Next Week

Aug 24, 2012 / National Hurricane Center

The weather along Alabama's coast should be sunny for one of the season's last big tourist weekends, but officials are urging residents to get ready for the approach of Isaac next week.

With weather service maps showing the storm could hit the Alabama coast as a hurricane on Wednesday, choppy surf and higher-than-normal tides may reach the coast Saturday or Sunday.

Flooding could be worse than usual because of heavy rains along the coast this summer, but officials say even that's hard to predict because of the uncertainty of the storm's track.

Alabama Records 12 West Nile Cases, 1 Death

Aug 24, 2012
dr_elling / Flickr

Alabama has recorded 12 cases of West Nile virus this summer, with one death so far. State Health Officer Don Williamson said Friday that Alabama is ahead of where it was at the same time in 2008, when 18 cases were diagnosed. 2009 saw no cases, and 2010 had three. Six of the cases this summer have been in Montgomery County, and that's where the fatality occurred with a man over 60 years old. Three cases were in Mobile County, and one each in Baldwin, Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties.

When Ashley Beecher had her first daughter, nursing was a struggle, and she sometimes had to supplement her baby's diet with formula. But when she had her second daughter in January, it was a very different story.

"Very early on I noticed [that] I've got so much more milk than what this child is drinking," said Beecher, a 29-year-old Houston mom, who started expressing her milk and storing it in plastic bags in her freezer. "There's probably, I would say, estimated around 50 bags containing six ounces of milk in each one and that's just what I have right now."



Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Dr. Catherine Baucom was late for surgery, but didn't give up. She was stuck in a massive traffic jam caused by an accident in Baton Rouge. And then she recalled a friend's house nearby and went to borrow a bike. TV station WAFB says the friend loaned his seven-year-old daughter's bike. So Dr. Baucom, almost six feet tall and wearing a green surgical outfit, pedaled for miles to surgery on a small, pink bike with a pink princess helmet. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

There's growing evidence that the bacteria in our gut influence our health, including how much we weigh. So what happens when antibiotics knock out some of the microbes that help us?

A study, published online today in the journal Nature, finds that antibiotics make young mice fatter by changing the mix of their gut bacteria.