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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Polio Is Making A Comeback

Nov 15, 2019

As the global effort to eradicate polio gets tantalizing close to its goal, the program is running in to new challenges.

One of the biggest obstacles this year is the proliferation of so-called "vaccine-derived" polio outbreaks.

Staple foods and seasonings like flour and salt could be made more nutritious with a new technology that borrows from the pharmaceutical industry, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

For days, air quality monitoring stations across New Delhi have been flashing a dark red reading — severe — the worst of six categories. The level of tiny particulate matter in the air this week was more than nine times what's considered safe to breathe.

Two patients have been diagnosed in Beijing with the most dangerous form of the plague – the medieval disease also known as the Black Death.

The announcement sent shock waves rippling through China's northeastern capital as authorities attempted to tamp down fears of an epidemic by censoring Chinese-language news of the hospitalization.

A New Solution For Snakebites

Nov 14, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

When it comes to global health, the world has made remarkable strides over the past two decades. There has been unprecedented progress vaccinating kids, treating diseases and lifting millions out of poverty. The childhood death rate has been slashed in half since 2000. Adults are living an average 5 1/2 years longer.

In the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet, workers are putting the final touches on the grandstand for Bon Om Touk, the annual water festival which begins this weekend. It's a huge party—the country pretty much shuts down for the three-day holiday, with dragon boat races and plenty of drink and dance.

It's a celebration of the water's bounty. This year, though, there will be less to celebrate.

Last week, just after the celebration of the Hindu festival Diwali, India's capital city was enveloped in a thick blanket of haze and smog.

A new vaccine to prevent dengue may be on the horizon. And health officials say it's desperately needed.

The World Health Organization this year listed dengue as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Fazila Begum grinned as she lifted up her hem to reveal a fading patch of scaly skin around her ankle.

"Who knew this one little cream would work so fast?" she says.

Fazila, 34, has been dealing with eczema for the past five years but never got it treated. The nearest hospital is an hour away, by boat and rickshaw, and her skin condition didn't seem serious enough to make the trek, so she ignored it — until a new technology brought the doctor to her.

You might think that the more you clean, the less germy your home is.

That's what Laura-Isobel McCall, a biochemist at the University of Oklahoma, thought she'd find when she started comparing microbes between rural and urban homes in Peru and Brazil.

"We expected that all the microbes would actually become less diverse with urbanization, and that's not at all what we found for the fungi," she says.

Late one Saturday night in August, young men and women crowded into a pop-up pub deep in a narrow Beijing alley. They were gathered to talk about an unlikely topic in China: sexual consent.

The Opium Cycle

Nov 5, 2019

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Recently, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy as part of a tentative multi-billion dollar settlement with state and local governments over lawsuits alleging that the company misled doctors and the public about the addictive nature of their well-known painkiller, Oxycontin.

It seemed like a fairy tale. At the age of 18, Fatou Jallow won a beauty pageant sponsored by the Gambian president and run by the Ministry of Education's Gender Department. She was showered with gifts—clothes, cash, furniture for her parent's house, even a new iPhone. She was invited to public events with president Yahya Jammeh — and to meet with him privately at his residence. A black government Jeep would pick her up from her house, which didn't have running water, and take her to the presidential palace.

Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe says his story starts in 1973. He had just gotten his Ph.D. at the Rega Institute in Belgium. He could have stayed in Europe, but he decided to return to Congo, or what was then known as Zaire, which had only recently attained independence from Belgium.

If he had stayed in Belgium, he says, he would have been doing routine lab work. But in Congo, he would be responsible for the "health of my people."

In 2005, when Mikael Chukwuma Owunna was 15 years old, he came out as gay on MySpace.

An HIV Crisis Among Pakistan's Children

Nov 2, 2019

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Making lemonade out of life's lemons is one thing. But what could Kenyan IT consultant-turned-farmer Noah Nasiali-Kadima do with the 75,000 fresh cabbages he had been stuck with?

That was the dilemma he faced in 2016, when the buyer with whom he had a contract simply walked out on him, refusing to pay and leaving him with six acres of ripe cabbages that had cost most of his savings to produce.

Q breaks into song, and the lyrics reflect something of himself: "My heart aches, my heart aches and my heart aches," he croons. The 10-year-old hopes to go professional one day, but his mother says that first, he has to break his addiction to heroin.

Q began smoking his father's heroin in the summer, unnoticed by his parents, both addicts whose lives revolved around getting high and staying high. "I felt really happy. I felt free," he said. (Q is only referred to by his first initial because of his young age.)

Alexandra Chen was a trauma specialist working in Lebanon and Jordan when she noticed that a specific group of kids were struggling in schools.

Chen kept getting referrals for refugee students who had fled the war in Syria. They were having trouble focusing and finishing schoolwork. Some had even dropped out of school.

Last week, Turkey agreed to a cease-fire in its military offensive targeting Kurdish-led forces in northeastern Syria. But even with hostilities largely on hold, the invasion's humanitarian impact continues to unfold.


In the incredibly ambitious, multibillion-dollar effort to wipe polio off the face of the planet, there's currently good news and bad news.

The good news, says Michel Zaffran, who runs the World Health Organization's global polio eradication program, is that there's hardly any polio left.

"When we started back in 1988," Zaffran says, "we had cases in 125 countries and 300,000 cases every year."

Growing up in the Gambia in West Africa, Nabia Drammeh always knew she wanted to be a nurse. "My auntie was a nurse," she says. "I used to go to the clinic and see the way she works. I told her, 'I really want to be a nurse in the future!' So I've loved this job since when I was a child."

The 27-year-old graduated from nursing school in 2012 and has been a nurse ever since.

She now works at the Brufut health clinic just outside the Gambian capital of Banjul.

It's a modest government clinic housed in a cluster of single-story cement buildings.

London says toxic air pollution has fallen by roughly a third inside a central urban zone where drivers are required to meet specific emission standards or pay a daily fine. The city launched the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April.

The city's report states that about 13,500 fewer polluting cars are driven in the zone daily, and that traffic has decreased overall in the bustling area.

When Claude Tayou Tagny was a young medical student on a rotation through clinics in rural Cameroon, he treated a woman during a difficult childbirth. She had lost, by his estimate, at least three pints of blood, triple the normal amount for childbirth and equal to roughly 30% of her total blood volume.

Tagny, with no supply of blood on hand, did the only thing he could: put out a call to the woman's family for emergency donations. He was only able to raise one pint.

"It was not enough," he says. The baby survived, but the woman did not.

Better vaccines, nutrition and disease control have cut the global death rate for children in half over the past 20 years. But even within countries that have made major progress, children can face greatly different fates.

"Where you're born substantially impacts your probability of surviving to 5," says Simon Hay, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington who is the lead author of a new study on childhood mortality in Nature.

Uganda explicitly bars government officials from accepting gifts of any kind from cigarette-makers. French and British officials must publicly announce any encounters with representatives of the industry. Thailand and the Philippines won't even let officials take a meeting except under the narrowest of circumstances.

These are some of the measures deployed by countries around the world to limit influence over their anti-smoking policies, according to the first-ever Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index.

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