Science news

King County's major medical centers continue jockeying for position in the emerging new health-care world. 

U.W. Medicine and Valley Medical Center proposed this week what they call a "strategic alliance." Valley wants to retain its name, although the news release says Valley would become "part of U.W. Medicine."

Earlier this year, U.W. Medicine took over running Northwest Hospital (in north Seattle), without actually owning the hospital. 

Being a pioneer in adding calorie and nutrition labels to menus at fast-food restaurants has made King County a good place for researchers to visit.

A team based at Duke-National University of Singapore has been watching consumers at Taco Time restaurants, both in King County and in other counties, and found that adding all that info to the menus appeared to have no impact on people's choices. They published their results today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Photo by derekb/Flickr

If those cuts don't sound harsh enough, you can add "low-income" and "people of color" to the headline. 


With massive flooding in Australia in the news, or earthquakes in South America, perhaps it’s no surprise that 2010 was the most deadly year in a generation for natural disasters around the globe.  What’s the worst we might face here in western Washington?


Ever had a summer beach vacation chilled by dense fog? Then you might be interested in new research at the University of Washington. A scientist there is looking at how fogginess along the coast has changed over time. 

Dr. Marius Laumans, right, examining Lynnette Drake, at a Group Health facility
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Along with egg nog and presents, doctors say families should share their health histories this holiday season.  Health officials say family history is a leading predictor of illnesses and a big gift for loved ones. 


Western Washington can look forward to an added gift of the Winter Solstice: a total eclipse of the moon. The heavenly event begins at 10:32 pm tonight, with the moon in full eclipse from 11:41 pm to 12:53 am, according to NASA.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

Just when you thought cigarettes were headed for obscurity, along comes the electronic cigarette.  The King County Board of Health is restricting these "e-cigarettes" in the name of protecting youth -- and keeping a stigma against smoking. 

A whooping cough outbreak at an elementary school in north Tacoma has sickened at least six children.  Investigators are looking into additional cases. 

The disease, also known as pertussis, can cause serious illness in young children, especially infants.  More than one-third of infants less than one year old who get the disease must be hospitalized, according to the Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department.  

An "atmospheric river"
UW/Dpt. of Atmospheric Sciences / (

A big rainstorm is headed to western Washington this weekend.  Forecasters say Saturday should start out pleasant, with the rainstorm hitting south Puget Sound in the late morning, and the Seattle area by around noon.

It’s not supposed to be as bad as devastating storms a few years ago, but flooding is likely on some rivers. 

There are a few rivers in western Washington that flood regularly – such as the Skokomish and the Tolt.  This year, you can add one more to that list, a section of the Puyallup River in eastern Pierce County.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has rejected a new rate increase requested by one of the state’s largest health insurers.  It’s the second time in recent months Kreidler has sparred with Regence BlueShield. 

Regence is seeking a 3.7% increase for its Washington customers, including the Asuris subsidiary, starting January first, to cover the cost of new benefits required by the federal health law.  This applies to its individual insurance plans, not to plans provided through employers.

UW / Marc Beaudreau

The drug-resistant strain of staph infection MRSA is known to be a problem for many hospitals.  A pioneering study from the University of Washington shows that it's also resilient enough to spread from medic units all the way into the living quarters of firefighters. 

World AIDS Day

KPLU's Humanosphere blogger Tom Paulson has a great post today about why the Gates Foundation's director of HIV and tuberculosis programs feels this year's World AIDS day is different than it's dozens of predecessors. 

The number of people getting newly infected with HIV has stayed steady in Washington since 2005.  There are about 570 new cases a year.  Most of those – 63% -- are gay and bisexual men.  The Washington Department of Health says those numbers justify changes in how it distributes funding, starting in January. 

Surgery at U.W. Medical Center
Keith Seinfeld / KPLU

If you ever need elective surgery, more websites keep appearing to help you pick the safest hospital.  Now, you can compare all the hospitals in Washington based on their infection rates following some common surgeries. 


Voters may have repealed taxes on sodas, but that’s not scaring away public health leaders.  They’re urging parents to keep their kids away from sodas and other sugary drinks this holiday season.  It’s part of an overall effort to combat obesity. 


Washington state says it has evidence its anti-tobacco program is not only saving lives but saving money for taxpayers.  That comes as the program faces near elimination because of budget cuts. 


We’ve been hearing a lot about the politics of health care lately.  In the meantime, many employers are in open enrollment season, making for a confusing month when it comes to health insurance.  And for seniors on Medicare,  November brings the annual dilemma about prescription drugs.


Following three high-profile cases involving its patients, Seattle Children's Hospital has been given a passing report card of "no deficiencies" by the  state Department of Health, according to the Associated Press.  Inquiries  of nurses and other health care providers involved in the cases are still ongoing.

The Associated Press reports: