Health and health care news

Mainers Urged To Vaccinate Against A Coming ‘Brushfire’ Of Flu

Dec 7, 2017
Brian Swartz / Bangor Daily News

Flu season is building momentum in Maine, with both outpatient medical visits and hospitalizations on the rise. Though numbers are still small, according to the most recent weekly report from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, experts say Mainers should expect more widespread illness as the season progresses.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The case against a Lewiston dentist accused of putting the health and safety of his patients in immediate jeopardy is significantly weaker than it was a few weeks ago.

The Maine Board of Dental Practice dismissed the majority of claims made against Dr. Jan Kippax on Friday. Kippax temporarily lost his license last February amid allegations that he extracted the wrong teeth and continued painful procedures even though patients asked him to stop.

Maine Things Considered Host Nora Flaherty and Maine Public Reporter Patty Wight discussed the case.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

For Mainers recovering from a mental health problem, peer centers can offer a place to socialize and provide critical support. A year ago, Androscoggin County, home to Maine’s second-largest city, lost both of its mental health peer centers, and those who had used them say the loss has had an isolating effect in their community.

Peer centers are different from other mental health programs because they’re less structured and they’re free. It’s a place to do group activities, learn life skills or just sit and chat with others.

As the months grow colder and darker, many people find themselves somewhat sadder and even depressed.

Bright light is sometimes used to help treat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Researchers are now testing light therapy to see if it also can help treat depression that's part of bipolar disorder.

If you're losing sleep over the blue light coming from your phone, there's an app for that.

In fact, there are now lots of apps that promise to improve sleep by filtering out the blue light produced by phones, tablets, computers and even televisions.

But how well do these apps work?

There haven't been any big studies to answer that question. So I phoned a couple of scientists who study the link between blue light exposure and sleep.

In April this year, Katie Herzog checked into a Boston teaching hospital for what turned out to be a nine-hour-long back surgery.

The 68-year-old consulting firm president left the hospital with a prescription for Dilaudid, an opioid used to treat severe pain, and instructions to take two pills every four hours as needed. Herzog took close to the full dose for about two weeks.

About 3.5 million people in the U.S. are living with hepatitis C. New, blockbuster drugs have transformed the treatment and prognosis for the deadly disease. But there’s a catch — they’re expensive.

A single course of treatment, which lasts about three months, can cost as much as $90,000. The sheer volume of patients combined with the price tag for treatment limits access.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Treatment for hepatitis C was at one time complicated, requiring weekly visits to specialists and harsh drugs that often came with severe side effects. And the cure rate was less than 50 percent.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

We know that hepatitis C is an increasing problem, and that it’s closely tied to intravenous drug use. But what is it, exactly? How does it work in your body? Let’s find out.

Hepatitis C kills more Americans than HIV and AIDS, and the number of people who are infected with the disease is growing. Dramatically.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

The White House has declared opioid abuse a national public health emergency. But it’s also fueling another epidemic: a rise in hepatitis C.

Mary Esch / Associated Press

This week, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory about kratom, an herbal supplement that’s used to treat pain, anxiety, depression and addiction.

The FDA warns that kratom has similar effects to the narcotics in opioids, and carries similar risks of abuse. But those who use the botanical say it’s a safe, alternative treatment that helps people.

About 50,000 Mainers would lose health insurance under the proposed Senate Republican tax bill, according to progressive-leaning state and national policy organizations. They say the tax bill’s provision to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate tugs at a thread that would significantly unravel the federal health law.

Aisha Faquir / World Bank

Nearly half of adults in Maine likely have high blood pressure under new guidelines announced Monday. A national physician task force has changed the definition of hypertension, and is recommending more patients receive treatment earlier.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control / via Associated Press

The tick-borne disease anaplasmosis on the rise in Maine.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control, the number of cases of the disease has grown from a little more than a dozen about a decade ago to 500 so far this year. Public health officials say the increase mirrors the movement of Lyme disease into Maine years ago.

As state epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett runs through the reported cases of anaplasmosis year by year, the numbers at first hold steady in the teens.

“In 2008 there were 17. 2009, 15,” she says.

But then, they start to grow.

Why Delivering Babies Is Draining Maine’s Small Hospitals

Nov 13, 2017
Courtesy Celia Geel / via Bangor Daily News

Celia Geel of Calais would have much preferred to deliver her second baby in the familiar, hometown hospital where she gave birth to her daughter, Cora, 2½ years ago. Instead, after Calais Regional Hospital closed its labor and delivery department in August, Colton Scott Geel came into the world — a wailing, 8 pounds, 7 ounces of healthy baby boy — at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, nearly 100 miles from home.