Health

Health and health care news

The Maine Center for Disease control is urging Mainers at higher risk for  hepatitis A infection to get vaccinated, in light of outbreaks of the disease in several states.

Maine has had four cases of hepatitis A in the last three months and that worries CDC epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett.

“Because we have seen more in the last couple of months than we normally see, we thought now is a good time to actually increase awareness and get the message out that if you haven’t been vaccinated please do get vaccinated.”

Maine's new lead exposure standards have led to a 10-fold jump in children identified as having been poisoned by lead.
 
The Portland Press Herald reports that a new law that changed standards for lead poisoning has identified 386 children as having been poisoned by lead. The law has been in effect for a year.
 
The law lowers the leading poisoning threshold to start intervention methods from 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter to 5 micrograms.
 

Tom Porter / Maine Public

MaineHealth announced Thursday that its 10 member organizations, including 8 hospitals, are uniting under a single board and a $2.5 billion budget.

Unification has been touted as a way to more easily share resources between hospitals and preserve services. But some experts say consolidation leads to higher prices.

The idea was first pitched about a year ago to address a challenge in health care, says MaineHealth president Bill Caron. That is, the increasing financial pressure on smaller, rural hospitals as more profitable services shift to larger health centers.

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.

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