Health

Ebola in Guinea.
flickr.com/photos/69583224@N05/13717624625/

It started with a whisper.

As a society, we don't pay much attention to nutrition information when we eat out. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report estimates just 8 percent of Americans use nutritional information when deciding what to order. But that could change soon. As we've reported , the Affordable Care Act will require chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie information on menus or menu boards. And what might make us pay attention? Well, researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of...

A picture of a man taking cover under his desk.
Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation / shakeout.goct.nz

Earthquakes are rare in North Carolina, but they happen. So the North Carolina Department of Public Safety is asking businesses and schools across the state to practice earthquake drills today. The effort is part of the Great Southeast ShakeOut . Spokeswoman Julia Jarema says there have already been four small quakes in the North Carolina this year. And we're not insulated from seismic activity in other parts of the region. “If anybody was in North Carolina in August of 2011 they will likely...

Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis shake hands after the debate at UNC-TV Wednesday night.
Mike Oniffrey / UNC-TV

Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continue to be a topic of discussion on the North Carolina campaign trails.

String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph.
NIH/NIAID via Flickr/Creative Commons

State government leaders say North Carolina is well on the way to being prepared if an Ebola case is diagnosed within our borders. A state epidemiologist says steps to isolate a contagious and potentially deadly case can be put in place without an emergency order from the governor. Those actions can include quarantines of people and buildings. State DHHS secretary Aldona Wos says the appearance of the disease in this country is prompting many states to respond.

"In light of the...

Heroin syringe
Thomas Martinsen / Flickr/Creative Commons

"A heroin high .. I ain't going to lie - it's amazing .. you feel like you're Superwoman." Wonder why it's hard for some to leave heroin behind? Listen to Jennifer Harris and Brandi Martinez. Both live in High Point, N.C. and both have been clean for two years. (Jennifer talks first.)


The recording also features Dr. Jim Finch, an addiction specialist in Durham, N.C. The number of heroin overdose deaths in the North Carolina has quadrupled in just a few years. These...

Ebola Sign
Leoneda Inge

The first diagnosed Ebola case in the United States and the first death, has raised awareness of the deadly disease from California to the Carolinas. Hospitals and health professionals are especially on alert. The state Department of Health and Human Services has been working closely with health care providers since the summer, to prepare for the possibility of an Ebola patient being diagnosed here. About 1,000 people come through the Emergency Room doors at UNC Hospitals on a weekly basis....

A picture of an elderly person's hand with an I.V. tube taped to it.
Tim Samoff / Flickr

Two Triangle hospitals will lose a portion of their Medicare reimbursements this year. They're being penalized for re-admitting too many patients within a month of hospitalization. Under the Affordable Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reduce payments to hospitals which re-admit a higher number of patients than they're supposed to. They're looking at data between the summers of 2010 to 2013. Based on the number re-admissions, the CMS determines what percentage of Medicare...

One addict talked about scoring methadone regularly at a Bible study.
Savio Sebastian / Flickr/Creative Commons

This is the third in a three-part series about the problem of heroin in North Carolina. (Parts one and two are below.) Heroin in NC Part Three: Bible Study North Carolina is not immune to the nation's growing heroin problem. The number of overdose deaths in the state has quadrupled in just a few years. More people are seeking treatment. In our final installment of the series, Jeff Tiberii reports on efforts to re-open a shuttered clinic in High Point. Jennifer Harris has two kids, lives with...

Wake County commissioners heard from health officials today on the county's readiness should an Ebola case be diagnosed here. The leaders cited several calls of concern they've received from residents after the disease was discovered in a hospital patient in Texas.
Wake County health experts say they are working with hospitals, universities and airport authorities to ensure the earliest warnings are given should a case appear in North Carolina. Brent Myers is the medical director for...

First responders in Guilford County have administered hundreds of doses of Naloxone, or NARCAN, this year. Heroin overdoses and deaths are on the rise.
Jeff Tiberii

A new government study says deaths from heroin overdose in the United States doubled between 2010 and 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from 28 states. That upward trend is also taking place in North Carolina, where heroin deaths climbed from 38 to 183 between 2010 and 2013; representing an increase of 480%. In response, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 20 last year. That measure deregulates Naloxone.

"Essentially it's an EpiPen for opioid overdoses....

Photo of Dr. Jeffrey Brantley
spiritualityandhealth.duke.edu

Everyone gets mad sometimes, but learning to control anger is a challenge for many people.

A map of North Carolina Infant Mortality Rates 2009-2013
NCDHHS

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that infant mortality is at its lowest level in state history. For the past two years, infant mortality rates had risen -- going from 7.0 per 1000 live births in 2010 to 7.4 in 2012. But last year, the numbers shot back down, returning to 2010 levels, the lowest in history. “DHHS is extremely proud of the progress made in the health of our state’s women and infants," said Penny Slade-Sawyer, Director of DHHS’ Division...

A picture of cleaning chemicals.
Collin Anderson / Flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a chemical safety data summit in Research Triangle Park today and tomorrow. Unless a chemical is being used as a food additive, a drug, a pesticide or one of a few other specialized uses, EPA officials say there's not a significant amount of testing required. Russell Thomas is a director at the EPA. He said there are hundreds of new chemicals introduced into the environment each year. “A lot of the chemicals that we're screening incorporate many...

Today, the World Health Organization reported more than 2,900 people have died from Ebola in Western Africa. Amidst the growing epidemic, Nigeria has managed to escape much of the havoc. Nigeria is Africa's most populous country by far, with more than 170 million people. Yet there have been only 20 confirmed cases and eight confirmed deaths from Ebola since July. How has the country escaped widespread infection?

"Once the first case was reported, we sort of rapidly set up the...

A look at some of the Apple Health apps that are part of the HealthKit bundle.
Apple.com

Duke University Hospital is testing a new Apple product called HealthKit. The feature was announced as part of Apple's new operating system last week. It allows users to share personal health data, like blood pressure or workout times, between apps. The trial with Duke University is an attempt to connect that personal health data with the hospital's records system. “So, for example: If your physician asks you to check your blood pressure regularly at home because you have high blood pressure,...

A picture of sweet potatoes.
Llez / Wikipedia

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving millions of dollars to North Carolina State University to research sweet potatoes. The grant is aimed at developing new breeding tools to improve crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Craig Yencho heads the university's sweet potato breeding program and is the project director. He said sweet potatoes already feed millions of people in the region. "It's a very hardy crop," said Yencho. "It can resist drought and heat very well. It can be grown...

Photo: Sign that says 'You Must Be 21 Years Old To Enter'
Flickr user Steve Mclaughlin

The North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission is preparing an advertising campaign against underage drinking. According to an ABC survey, up to 40 percent of children in North Carolina have consumed alcohol before they get to the ninth grade.

ABC Chairman Jim Gardner says part of the motivation behind the campaign is another, more stark, statistic.

"I was staggered when I heard the figure that we lose a child per week," Gardner said in an interview. "And I...

Larry Hester, at the WUNC studios, September 2014.
Eric Mennel

Larry Hester lost his sight at age 33. Last week, 66-year-old Hester had a computer chip inserted into his left eyeball which may help him gain some ability to better navigate his life. The six-hour surgery – the first in North Carolina – was performed by Dr. Paul Hahn at the Duke Eye Center. When the device is turned on, Hester will wear a pair of glasses rigged with a camera. The glasses will be attached by wire to a computerized device that Hester will wear on his belt. The camera will...

A picture of colorized Ebola particles.
Thomas W. Geisbert, Boston University School of Medicine / Wikipedia

A Durham-based non-profit is starting a concentrated effort to slow the spread of Ebola in west Africa. The group Africa Yes! says it's raising money and awareness for villages in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone.
The virus has killed more than 500 people in that country, which is second only to Liberia's death toll. Africa Yes! co-founder Steve Cameron says the group is sending money for supplies to 19 small villages that have not yet been infected.

"Disinfectant,...

Doctors at Duke Hospital.
Duke Medecine

According to new report on the website BetterDoctor.com, Raleigh and Greensboro are among the top cities in the country facing a physician shortage. The data compares populations based on U.S. Census Data with the number of registered primary care doctors.
Erin Freher is head of the development team at the Sheps Center's Program on Workforce Research and Policy at U-N-C Chapel Hill. She cautions not to put too much stock into the shortage numbers. Freher claims they're too simplistic...

Khalil Bilar works in a laboratory at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
Jeff TIberii

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem have made progress in their efforts to replicate human kidneys. Regenerative medicine can sometimes sound futuristic, but doctors at Wake Forest are actually using kidneys from deceased pigs with the hope they could one day be transplanted into human patients. The concept is to let the original cells die off, then take human tissue to re-grow the organ in a lab. Recently, doctors have developed a method to keep blood vessels...

About 200 people use services at the IRC (Interactive Resource Center) each weekday.
Flickr.com

Glimpses of poverty can be seen across North Carolina on a daily basis. From median strips to emergency rooms and school cafeterias to unemployment offices, no communities are immune.

In Greensboro many people in need use the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) for daily access to computers, showers, and a sense of community. More than 200 people visit the center each weekday.

"I went from $80,000 a year to, I'm lucky if I make $80 a month," says Earl Zayack, a slender...

A picture of a stethoscope.
jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

The three-month open-enrollment period for federally subsidized health care starts in November. This year, federal funding to help people enroll in subsidized health insurance has dropped. Sorien Schmidt works with the North Carolina chapter of Enroll America to connect people with navigator organizations. She says enrollment was a success last year, but there are still one million uninsured North Carolinians and others will need help to re-enroll. Last year, the government allocated $3...

Medicaid illustration: A Caduceus symbol and a dollar sign
Neff Conner / Flickr

North Carolina health officials say the state Medicaid program has a positive cash balance for the first time in years. For years, the state health insurance for people who are poor or disabled has cost tax payers more than expected. We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars. But that wasn't the case last year. Aldona Wos, the state secretary for Health and Human Services, says the Medicaid budget was in the black.

"We're ecstatic," she says. "This is the first time in five...

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