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Health & Science

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Ali Guillory / WABE

A new initiative by the Atlanta Audubon Society is trying to save birds by asking people to turn off their lights at night.

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Hundreds of millions – maybe even a billion -- birds die each year when they get confused by lights and crash into buildings, according to the Audubon Society.

David Goldman / Associated Press

This week, the fortunes of rural hospitals in Georgia took a turn for the better.

Voters in Monroe and Jefferson counties Tuesday approved tax increases to help preserve their rural hospitals, which are in financial danger.

A proposed tax credit upgrade for donors to rural hospitals, an idea that had appeared dead in this year’s Georgia General Assembly session, is alive again less than two weeks before the legislators are expected to adjourn.

Georgia's Health System Score Just Went Up

Mar 22, 2017
Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

Georgia’s ranking on a health system scorecard has improved from 46th in the nation to 41st.

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The Commonwealth Fund’s 2017 scorecard ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia on the most recent data available in five areas: health care access, quality, avoidable hospital use and costs, health outcomes, and health care equity.

AP File

Georgia lawmakers have reached a compromise on a bill that would require doctors to log into a pill-tracking database before prescribing painkillers and other high-risk drugs. The goal is to curtail the overprescribing of opioids.

But critics say loopholes written into the proposal would create a false sense of accomplishment while leaving patients exposed to harm. Physician groups counter that the exceptions are necessary to reduce the burden on already strained doctors.


The House Insurance Committee on Monday passed revamped legislation to reduce “surprise billing,’’ in which patients using hospitals in their insurance network may still get unexpected bills from doctors who are not in the network.

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Don Heupel / AP

A state Senate health committee Thursday approved a bill to offer optional testing of Georgia newborns for Krabbe disease, a rare genetic disorder.

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The form of Krabbe that strikes newborns is caused by a change, or mutation, in the gene that carries the blueprints for an enzyme called galactosylceramidase, which is crucial to wrapping protective insulation called myelin around nerves. Without it, the brain and nerves deteriorate.

North Georgia drought, Georgia drought, Atlanta drought
Alison Guillory / WABE

Federal government forecasters issued spring weather conditions Thursday, and the news for North Georgia, which remains under a severe drought, is mixed. 

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the risk of river flooding in this region is expected to be low this spring.

Mobile Apps Aimed At Helping Fill Sex Education Gaps

Mar 15, 2017
Paul Sakuma / AP File

It’s a rite of passage. Crowded onto the bleachers in the Clarke Central High School gym, ninth-grade students sit down for the start of a two-week health class. It’s their only such class in four years of high school.

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That’s where Katy Mayfield found herself as a 14-year-old freshman.

Molly Samuel / WABE

In many Georgia counties, the drought is clearing up. The state recently relaxed water use restrictions in dozens of counties. But not in metro Atlanta, most of which remains in a "Level 2" drought response. In places that rely on Lake Lanier for water – that includes most of the metro area – the drought drags on.  

Northbound traffic on I75-I85 headed Downtown
Alison Guillory / WABE

Georgia Tech researchers have found it's not just car emissions sending people to emergency rooms in Atlanta, but all that dust coming off brakepads and tires.

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Last year, researchers suspended monitors near I-75 in Atlanta to measure air pollution including the acidity in the air.

E.J. Keller / Wikimedia

Neuroscientist Gregory Berns has a closet full of brains in his lab at Emory University.

There are brains from a few species of dolphins. There are coyote brains and a Tasmanian devil brain, which Berns said is sort of the jewel of the collection -- it's the only one in North America, as far as he knows.

He pulls one in a plastic container down off the shelf. 

“This is the brain of a German shepherd who I knew, who was owned by a friend of mine.” He said it's a little sad working with that brain, since he knew the animal.

Brennan Linsley / Associated Press

In today's  "Medical Minute," reporter Jim Burress and medical analyst Dr. Ford Vox talk about the American Health Care Act currently under committee debate in the House. The bill is under attack from the right and the left for different reasons.

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Vox explains why he joins the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and other stakeholders in criticizing this legislation.


Tsippendale / Pixabay

In this "Medical Minute," reporter Jim Burress and medical analyst Dr Ford Vox talk about the Nordic import of pole walking, also known as polestriding.

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Buress and Vox talk about how the activity changes the way you walk and the growing body of research that says it's beneficial for a variety of medical conditions, ranging from simple arthritis to peripheral artery disease, and even Parkinson's disease.

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David Goldman / Associated Press

Older Georgians would get hit with higher costs under the new Republican health care plan, especially those in rural areas, according to some health care analysts.

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Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can charge older Americans only three times as much as they would younger Americans. Under the new plan, companies could charge five times as much.

Plant Scherer in operation at Juliette, Ga.
Gene Blythe / Associated Press

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order this week that would begin dismantling one of the Obama administration’s key climate change rules.  

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M. Spencer Green / associated press file

A new study finds fewer overweight Americans have been trying to lose weight in recent years. Researchers wonder if fat acceptance could be among the reasons.

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The trend over nearly two decades could also reflect people giving up after repeated failed dieting attempts. It happened as U.S. obesity rates climbed.


Dr. Ford Vox

In these "Medical Minute," WABE senior correspondent Jim Burress and medical analyst Dr. Ford Vox discuss homeopathy – more specifically a line of homeopathic teething tablets and gels produced by Hyland’s Homeopathic. 

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Evan Vucci / Associated Press

Schools in Dade County are closed for a second day after 20 percent of students called in sick this week, making Dade the second North Georgia school district this year to close due to outbreaks of influenza and norovirus.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports classes in the district were canceled Thursday and Friday.

Dade Middle School was missing 42 percent of its students Wednesday. Superintendent Jan Harris says more than 20 percent of bus drivers and 10 percent of faculty were also out sick.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Some fish that live in one of Atlanta's creeks, a tributary to the Chattahoochee River, have elevated levels of chemicals in their bodies, including pesticides that went out of use in the 1980s.

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Proctor Creek, on Atlanta’s Westside, has had issues with e. coli and fecal coliform bacteria caused by sewer overflows, but a new report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents man-made toxic chemicals in fish caught at a fishing spot in Bankhead, near Maddox Park.

''Save My Care'' is a national, two month, cross-country bus tour protesting the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It stopped in front of the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 20, 2017.
Al Such / WABE

Keeping the Affordable Care Act was the focus of a rally in Atlanta Monday that drew more than 200 people to Liberty Plaza in front of the state Capitol.

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It was part of “Save My Care," a national, two month, cross-country bus tour protesting the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

At the rally, Georgia residents shared stories of near-death experiences and surviving cancer.

Molly Samuel / WABE

Experts on climate change and public health gathered at the Carter Center on Thursday for a conference put together to replace one with a similar agenda the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put on hold.

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Ga. Lawmakers To Vote On Cannabis Oil Bill

Feb 16, 2017
The new bill would decrease the maximum level of THC in cannabis oil.
Jeff Chiu, File / Associated Press

State senators are scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that would decrease the maximum level of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis oil allowed in Georgia, from 5 percent to 3 percent.

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Lisa Ganser is an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Kennesaw State. She does research on how cannabis oil relieves symptoms of spasticity - like Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. 

Alison Guillory / WABE

For Valentine’s Day, here's a story about a long separation, where – finally – the boy and the girl are united.

This is not a story about people. It's not even a story about animals.

This is a story about plants.

First, a very short botany review: Most plants are both male and female. Their flowers have both parts. But some kinds of plants aren't like that; there are males with male flowers, and females with female flowers.

Sea to Shore Alliance, taken under NOAA permit #14388-02

It has not been a good year so far for North Atlantic right whales. The endangered animals have their calves off the coast of Georgia, and officials have seen only three calves so far.

In good years, back in the 2000s, wildlife biologist Clay George says there were 22 to 24 calves in a season, but there's been a downward trend over the past five years.

Protesters stand outside of the South Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Sunday. The Atlanta airport protest was among several that occurred in airports across the country.
Alison Guillory / WABE

In this "Medical Minute" segment, WABE senior correspondent Jim Burress and medical analyst Dr. Ford Vox discuss the impact of the Trump Administration's temporary executive order affecting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Former President Jimmy Carter
John Bazemore / Associated Press

An Atlanta solar company plans to announce completion of a project in former President Jimmy Carter's hometown.

SolAmerica Energy officials say the project was built on 10 acres of farmland that Carter owns and leased to the company.  Carter, who is 92, is set to attend an event on Wednesday marking the project's completion.

Carter said in a statement that he's pleased to play a role. Solar technology has long been an interest of Carter's. He was the first president to have solar panels installed while in the White House.

Georgia is among the five states affected by a recall from Ruth's Salads.

The Charlotte-based company says its 7-ounce containers of Original Pimento Spread might have fallen victim to listeria contamination.

This was discovered after a random test from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Officials say if the label says the spread is from Lot 16, and has a sell-by date of April 30, the product should be returned for a full refund.


In this "Medical Minute" segment, WABE senior correspondent Jim Burress and medical analyst Dr. Ford Vox talk about compelling evidence that fish oil supplements taken by pregnant women may decrease the risk of asthma in their children. 


Bisgaard et al. "Fish Oil–Derived Fatty Acids in Pregnancy and Wheeze and Asthma in Offspring." New England Journal of Medicine. 2016; 375:2530-2539


In this "Medical Minute" segment, WABE senior correspondent Jim Burress and medical analyst Dr. Ford Vox talk about home-based testing for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted while a person sleeps. This problem affects 25 percent of adults aged 30 to 70 and leads to dangerous fatigue that can cause traffic accidents.

Alison Guillory / WABE

A conference on climate change and health is back on but apparently minus the U.S. government.

Several organizers including former Vice President Al Gore have resurrected the meeting set for next month in Atlanta.

The government's top public health agency had planned the conference then canceled it in December without explanation.