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Lyme disease was once unheard of in western Pennsylvania, where Barbara Thorne, now an entomologist at the University of Maryland, spent time as a kid.

Thorne knew that if black-legged ticks are infected with bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, they can transmit Lyme to people and, that if untreated, symptoms can range from fever, fatigue and a rash, to serious damage to the joints, heart and nervous system.

A few months ago, Kourtnaye Sturgeon helped save someone's life. She was driving in downtown Indianapolis when she saw people gathered around a car on the side of the road. Sturgeon pulled over and a man told her there was nothing she could do: Two men had overdosed on opioids and appeared to be dead.

"I kind of recall saying, 'No man, I've got Narcan,' " she says, referring to the brand- name version of the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone. "Which sounds so silly, but I'm pretty sure that's what came out."

Something happened at the funeral. Something was making people incredibly sick. And local health workers had no idea what it was.

Chapter 1: The Outbreak

In April 2017 about 150 people had gathered for the funeral of a Christian minister in the small port city of Greenville, Liberia, in West Africa. The memorial spanned April 21 and 22 and included a wake that extended late into the night of the first day.

One July evening a few years ago, Carol Harnett was in a crosswalk in downtown Portland, Ore., when a driver made an illegal turn and hit her.

Transported by ambulance to a hospital, Harnett, who is president of the nonprofit Council for Disability Awareness, was diagnosed with a severely sprained right ankle and left wrist, as well as a concussion.

At the emergency room, doctors gave her steel-reinforced braces for her wrist and ankle and told her she was free to go.

As tick season reaches its peak in the Northwest, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control says diseases spread by tiny creatures like mosquitoes and ticks have tripled in the U.S. over the last 14 years.

To the untrained, the evidence looks promising for a new medical device to ease opioid withdrawal. A small study shows that people feel better when the device, an electronic nerve stimulator called the Bridge, is placed behind their ear.

The company that markets the Bridge is using the study results to promote its use to anyone who will listen: policymakers, criminal justice officials and health care providers.

The message is working.

Rebecca Soffer and Gabi Birkner, cofounders of the Modern Loss website and coauthors of the eponymous book.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

How are you?

If you’ve lost a loved one, that may have conjured up memories of a heavy hand on your shoulder, a precisely angled head tilt, a Hallmark card with tulips in all white.

When Melisa Martinez's son, Juelz, was born very prematurely at 25 weeks back in January, doctors at University of California, Davis Children's Hospital gave him probiotics. "They told me the probiotics may help reduce the risk of infection," Martinez says. Now, Juelz is home and doing well.

Bike share bikes in Seattle
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kim Malcolm talks with Dr. Frederick Rivara about whether the increasing popularity of bike sharing has led to more head injuries. Dr. Rivara is professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.

This interview was inspired by a question from KUOW listener Patricia Boiko.

Mount Rainier, or Tahoma, Tacobet, Ti'Swaq or Pooskaus.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Your list of errands for the weekend might include picking up a prescription — but just imagine if that meant going for a walk in the woods.

For some, that's exactly what the doctor ordered.

Sunday is National Park Prescriptions Day, which encourages health care providers to prescribe time in nature to reduce stress and improve patient health. 


In an unprecedented move, the state of Washington is shutting down a major provider of in-home care for developmentally disabled adults in King, Spokane and Yakima counties because of repeated serious violations of care standards.

Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Kim Malcolm talks with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) about a bill she's co-sponsoring that aims to combat the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Murray said the bill would increase access to mental health services and to treatment programs in underserved areas.

She also said the bill would encourage the development of non-addictive painkillers and step up efforts to detect and seize drugs like fentanyl.

Patricia Marin says her daughter Azul has been suffering from asthma since she was just a baby.
EarthFix, NWPB Photo/Courtney Flatt

Patricia Marín still remembers the day nine years ago when her daughter Azul started coughing and couldn't stop. Her breathing was ragged.

At the time, Azul was just 18 months old. Marín brought her to the emergency room.


FILE: University of Washington Medical Center
Flickr Photo/I-5 Design & Manufacture (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/8NiGU6

The University of Washington Medical Center says it will build a new facility to replace an aging inpatient psychiatric unit that’s slated for closure.

At the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, inmates with mental illness are locked down in their cells for up to 16 hours a day, even if they pose little risk. That’s one of the allegations in a lawsuit Disability Rights Washington plans to file in federal court in Spokane on Monday.

As more states legalize marijuana, there's growing interest in a cannabis extract — cannabidiol, also known as CBD.

It's marketed as a compound that can help relieve anxiety — and, perhaps, help ease aches and pains, too.

Part of the appeal, at least for people who don't want to get high, is that CBD doesn't have the same mind-altering effects as marijuana, since it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of the plant.

This photo was posted to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office Facebook page earlier in the week.
Pierce County Sheriff's Office Facebook page

In the photo above — posted by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook and Twitter this week – a man sits on the ground after being Tased by police. He wears nothing but black underwear briefs and a rosary around his neck. His small dog looks up at the camera.

The woman arrived at the emergency department gasping for air, her severe emphysema causing such shortness of breath that the physician who examined her immediately put her on a ventilator to help her breathe.

The patient lived across the street from that suburban Denver ER. The facility wasn't physically located at a hospital, says Dr. David Friedenson, the physician who took care of her that day. But it was affiliated with a hospital several miles away — North Suburban Medical Center.

UW's Medical Center operates a psychiatric unit with 10 beds.
KUOW Photo/Angela Nhi Nguyen

One of Seattle's psychiatric facilities is facing an uncertain future. The University of Washington Medical Center could shutter its psych unit, unless it makes "costly" upgrades.


A New Jersey Air National Guard member checks the blood pressure of a homeless veteran
Flickr Photo/New Jersey National Guard (CC-BY-ND-2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/TDycb7

Kim Malcolm talks with Marine Corps veteran Josh Penner and Navy veteran Rebecca Murch about the potential impact of privatizing healthcare services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ricky Garcia and Lauren Davis are fighting to pass Ricky's Law in the Washington State Legislature that would allow involuntary committment for addicts.
Courtesy of Lauren Davis

If someone you love wants to hurt themselves, what can you do? If the underlying cause is mental illness, one option is to have them involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment. But if the underlying cause is addiction, that was not an option until the passage of Ricky's Law in 2016.

Ricky Garcia and Lauren Davis worked with state lawmakers to pass a bill that would let someone in Washington state involuntarily commit an addict who is found to be a danger to him or herself.  Bill Radke brings Davis back into the studio for an update on the implementation of the law, which took effect Monday. 

Coffee companies in California must carry a cancer warning label because of a chemical produced while beans roast, a California judge tentatively ruled Wednesday.

The decision was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2008 by a California-based nonprofit called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics.

Rachel Ralph works long hours at an accounting firm in Oakland, Calif., and coordinates much of her life via the apps on her phone.

So when she first heard several months ago that she could order her usual brand of birth control pills via an app and have them delivered to her doorstep in a day or two, it seemed perfect. She was working 12-hour days.

"Food was delivered; dinner was often delivered," Ralph says. "Anything I could get sent to my house with little effort — the better."

Lawmakers in California will begin debate next month on a bill that would require doctors to screen new moms for mental health problems — once while they're pregnant and again, after they give birth.

But a lot of doctors don't like the idea. Many obstetricians and pediatricians say they are are afraid to screen new moms for depression and anxiety.

The inspiration arrived in a haze at a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago in San Francisco.

"People in front of me started lighting up and then other people started lighting up," says Matthew Springer, a biologist and professor in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "And for a few naive split seconds I was thinking to myself, 'Hey, they can't smoke in AT&T Park! I'm sure that's not allowed.' And then I realized that it was all marijuana."

In Rural Washington, Pediatricians A Scarce Commodity

Mar 16, 2018

For the past 16 years, Jill Hutton has been managing a pediatric clinic in Aberdeen that once treated 70 to 100 children a day. But now it’s empty. She’s working on shutting it down.

“Everyone asks me what I’m going to do and I don’t know,” she said. “I won’t know ‘til I turn out the lights and lock the doors. I guess this is the last episode of ‘Cheers’.”

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It all began with a single X-ray.

It was 1974, and surgeons had been doing total hip replacements for a dozen years.

Flickr Photo/Alex Proimos (CC-BY-SA-2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/22ZC4Jx

Last week, KUOW listener Carole Glickfeld reached out to us with a story.

She had come down with walking pneumonia. “I was very weak, feverish, I felt like it was the end of the world,” Glickfeld said.

Courtesy of Anne McTiernan

Bill Radke speaks with Anne McTiernan about her new memior called, "Starved: A Nutrition Doctor's Journey from Empty to Full." McTiernan is a research professor at the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Medicine and a member of the public health sciences division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

FLICKR PHOTO/BLOODWORKS NORTHWEST (CC BY 2.0)

Millennials sure do get blamed for a lot. And here's one more thing: According to a new national poll, millennials are the largest generation in the country, but they only account for 20 percent of all blood donations.


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