Science news

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 /

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.


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.


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.


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 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."

Sarel Fleishman / U.W.

Seattle researchers have created a new way to fight the flu virus, and potentially pave the way for a new class of medicines.

You probably remember how the flu pandemic two years ago eventually included such a scramble to get the vaccine that people stood in long lines -- and even lied about the ages of their children to get it earlier. It takes months to make influenza vaccine, which has to be grown in chicken eggs. And every year the whole process has to start over, as the virus keeps mutating and evolving. 

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

The Johnston Ridge Observatory opens Saturday at Mount St. Helens with some new displays to tell visitors the story of the volcano's big 1980 eruption.

The Daily News of Longview reports $1.6 million worth of improvements and enhancements have been made. When the Forest Service and Mount St. Helens Institute discussed them Tuesday, the center of attention was a touch-screen kiosk.


Marijuana dispensaries say their legal situation is actually getting worse now that Governor Chris Gregoire has vetoed most of the medical marijuana bill.  The legal gray area they’ve been using since 1999 as a justification for opening co-ops and storefront shops will be eliminated when the law takes effect in July. 

Justin Steyer / KPLU

We hope you figured out long ago that the title of KPLU's "Can Seattle Save the World? (Poverty, Health and Chocolate)" event was tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but also meant to raise some important questions. There's a serious debate about the meaning and priority of "health" in "global health."

The event itself, last Tuesday, proved so popular that we moved it to a room three times larger than originally planned -- and nearly packed the room. Not to toot our horn too much, but immediate feedback was enthusiastic. "Do it again," was the most common response.

We'd love to. In the meantime, we are belatedly offering a replay -- video from the event.

Read More:

angelocesare / Flickr

Maybe you had your first sip of wine or beer at home, with your parents. Or maybe it was with friends, in shadowy circumstances. Either way, did it matter in the long run?   

The latest research suggests parents drinking with their teens leads to problems. Teenagers are more likely to abuse alcohol and hurt themselves if their parents introduce them to alcohol than if parents have a zero-tolerance policy at home. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

The effort to reduce obesity is taking aim once again at sugary drinks.  A coalition of health groups is asking the public to try-out “Soda-Free Sundays.”

There’s pretty solid evidence Americans, on average, are drinking a lot more soft drinks and other sweetened beverages than they did a generation ago.  Back in the 1990’s, for example, soft drink sales surpassed milk.

Mars Desert Research Station

Despite having to endure a broken toilet, lousy food and fifteen days in a cramped research station in the Utah desert, a Boeing engineer says she's still enthusiastic about one day making a trip to Mars.

Photo courtesy of HealthPoint

Health clinics that cater to low-income people have been expanding.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. / AP

Even though the damaged nuclear reactors continue to cause problems in Japan, the amount of radiation reaching the Pacific coast is dropping.

Public health officials say the radiation threat has been more psychological than physical. They're proud of how they've responded to the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan. 

Elaine / Picasa

If you're game for an Olympic National Park hike of five to 20 miles and eager to go count housecat-sized rodents, the park wants you for its "citizen science" marmot monitoring program.