Science

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Charles Lam / flickr.com

The West Nile virus season is over, and the state Department of Health reports there were no human cases of the disease in Washington this year, nor were any birds or horses found to be infected.

Flickr photo by VoxEfx

In the old days, you might have tied a string to the door, and pulled a tooth with a slam (see the YouTube video below). But these days, most of us prefer a sterile environment and some anesthetic, not to mention a professional guiding hand.

How much training and supervision you need to pull teeth (and offer dental advice) are the central questions in a dispute between dentists and advocates for poor children. 

Matt Handy / Flickr

Four years ago the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called for the eradication of malaria. Since then it has spent nearly $2 billion in the effort.

While there has been success, many still wonder: What factors are driving malaria away? What's causing the success? There are also many confounding factors at play ranging from climate change to the mysterious disappearance of mosquitoes in east Africa.

It appears the economic recession has taken its toll on babies. Researchers have found the number of babies with severe head injuries nearly doubled in 2008 and 2009. Stress in the family seems to be a factor.

Keith Seinfeld / KPLU

King County Executive Dow Constantine says he’ll be able to preserve as many as a dozen sheriff’s deputies and 20 public health nurses. That’s because King County employees have been improving their health – and saving taxpayers about $23 million this year.

The savings go back into the county’s budget, and will mean fewer cuts next year.

Flickr

Washington continues to make progress boosting immunization rates among toddlers, despite having the highest percent in the nation of families exempting kids from vaccines. 

The new survey from the Centers for Disease Control shows the gains come with room for improvement.

This spring there was a big volcanic eruption in the Pacific Northwest. If you missed it, you're not alone. It happened under the ocean off the northern Oregon coast.

However, all this week a University of Washington research ship has been streaming live video via satellite of lava flows in the undersea crater. In a couple years, 24/7 video coverage of the ocean floor will be made possible by a new underwater fiber optic cable.

Courtesy of University of Washington

A University of Washington research ship is sending amazing live video of the aftermath of an undersea volcanic eruption. The large volcano is about 300 miles due west of Astoria, Oregon.

Some scientists theorize life on our planet started at a place like this.

Be.Futureproof / Flickr

A new approach to prescription painkillers at Group Health Cooperative could become a model for other medical providers. 

Painkillers have become a national concern because they're addictive and there’s been an uptick in overdoses. The number of people who have long-term prescriptions for painkillers has doubled over the past decade. 

Public Health Seattle & King County

Why spend $800,000 to advertise what seems like common knowledge?  That smoking is bad for you, that eating nutritious foods is better than a diet of fast-food and physical activity is a good idea?

Because too many of us have trouble following those golden rules.

Public Health Seattle & King County

A major ad campaign launches this week to promote healthy living, with advertisements featured on Seattle-area television, radio and billboards. Just about the only place you won’t find the ads is on Metro buses.

The transit agency says the advertisements violate its new policy regarding public service announcements. The policy, adopted April 8th, prohibits ads that express a viewpoint on “matters of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues.”

Leveretdreaming / flickr.com

If you see dead birds, especially clusters of dead crows, King County health officials want to hear from you.

The dead birds could indicate the presence of West Nile virus, which can be deadly to humans. Over the next three months, dead birds reported to Public Health will be collected for laboratory testing for the virus if they are deemed suitable candidates for testing.

Dan Hatten / Flickr

Your average American’s teeth may be whiter and straighter than they were a generation ago, but for very young children, tooth decay is still one the biggest health problems. 

Dentists and pediatricians are meeting this week at the University of Washington to find ways to reverse the trend.

National Weather Service, 7-15-11

Grouchy Northwesterners are starting to call this 'The year of no summer.' While we may be secretly glad to miss the heat wave that’s punishing the Midwest, we're wondering why we’re stuck with clouds … and when will it end?

When I talked to experts, the first thing they told me: It is no coincidence.

Flickr

If you’ve ever been to a hospital or doctor who can’t seem to get your medical records, be thankful for a new web-service launching this month. It allows doctors, hospitals and health insurers to quickly send medical records to each other, even if they're not in the same network.

Jake Ellison / KPLU

You may associate downtown Seattle with its shopping, hotels and offices, but the city's core also has a growing medical research community. From global-health focused non-profits to the University of Washington, it seems scientists all want to be near downtown.

The latest addition is a combination cancer research lab and bio-factory. Seattle Children’s Research Institute plans to open the new lab and "factory" in the Denny Triangle next month.

Associated Press

Parents who are hesitant about giving their children all the required immunizations have an unusual chance to share their views Tuesday. The national committee that decides when kids should get vaccines is taking testimony in Shoreline, north of Seattle -- inviting the public into a discussion of values. It’s just the second time they’ve asked for input.

Todd Gilmer and Kronick / Health Affairs (journal)

When it comes to caring for its poorest and sickest people, Washington state appears to be doing better than the rest of the country. At least, that’s the view from a new study that looks at Medicaid spending.

Public spending on health-care is a hot political topic these days, as states and the federal government try to balance their budgets. Researchers were wondering: How do the 50 states compare in their spending on Medicaid, which covers low-income people? Do some states spend more because they pay doctors higher fees?

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

The population of the Red Wolf Woods exhibit at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium just tripled in size. A new pair of wolves has arrived from the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.

The wolves, Wilson and Havana, are a non-breeding pair. They're on display in an area separate from the exhibit's other resident, Graham.

Erin Hennessey / KPLU

With the first day of summer this week, it’s finally beginning to look like it outside. If you think that’s a good sign for the rest of the season, think again. There really isn’t a good way to tell how summer will turn out.

IHME

If you live in certain counties in Washington, your life probably won’t be much longer than someone's in Albania or Mexico. On the other hand, the healthiest counties have life expectancies similar to Switzerland and Sweden.

This comes from new research showing life expectancy in many American communities is failing to keep up with the rest of the world. And the growing health gap is affecting women more than men.

KPLU

In an interview with the UK's Daily Mail, Bill Gates talked family, friends and global health. The world’s second-richest man was striking in his normalcy, sharing how he is teased by his kids, works too much and isn’t worried about a personal legacy.

"Legacy," he told the Dail Mail, "is a stupid thing! I don’t want a legacy. If people look and see that childhood deaths dropped from nine million a year to four million because of our investment, then wow!”

The great bee count

Jun 10, 2011
bbcactii / flickr

For a number of years, honey bee populations have been shrinking. It's called colony collapse disorder. To help understand this bee die-off, citizen scientists are being asked to keep an eye on their gardens this summer as part of The Great Sunflower Project.

University of Washington Biology Dept.

The University of Washington Biology Department says the corpse flower that reached the peak of its smelly bloom early Thursday will die in a few days.

Ashley Rose / Flickr

You've probably heard the under-world of drug abuse has taken on a new face over the past decade, with the rise of prescription pill addicts.

The story is more nuanced than that. But before looking at the nuance, here are a few surprising facts and a disturbing trend.

There’s a glimmer of hope in the struggle against prescription drug abuse.  For the first time, the number of overdose deaths from painkillers has gone down in King County. It’s also fallen statewide.

Unfortunately, people hooked on painkillers may be turning to heroin. Heroin abuse used to be confined to Washington's cities -- primarily Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane and Everett. Now, it's appearing for the first time in small towns and rural areas.

KPLU's complete report.

Tom Paulson / Humanosphere

There’s a big push going on right now to expand the scope of the global health agenda, to include many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer.

One of the world's best-known thinkers about global climate change is Australian writer Tim Flannery. He's not only a best-selling author, he's also his country's first Chief Commissioner for Climate Change.

His latest book, Here on Earth: a Natural History of the Planet, paints a hopeful picture of the future of human life on earth. He recently gave a talk in Seattle, where he said his message of optimism seemed to have trouble getting through to his audience.

KPLU's Bellamy Pailthorp caught up with him for an interview.

University of Washington / U of W

Its scientific name is Amorphophallus Titanum, but its most commonly known as a corpse flower.  And it could bloom any day now in the University of Washington's botany green house.

Thirty years ago this month, the first cases of AIDS were identified by the medical community. It was still a mystery disease. A strange form of pneumonia was striking young men in Los Angeles. Since then, the epidemic has been a dramatic roller-coaster of death, disease, politics and what some people call the greatest medical success story of the past half century. 

(This interactive timeline is from the federal AIDS.gov website. Click and scroll for dates and highlights.)

I sat down with Dr. Bob Wood, one of the most prominent local faces of AIDS and the fight to contain it, to discuss the highlights and low points. You can listen to the interview by clicking on "Audio."

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