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David Goldman / Associated Press

With the mosquito-borne illness Zika in the news, it may be hard to remember that just a few years ago, West Nile Virus was the big concern.

Well, it turns out West Nile never had major numbers in metro Atlanta – and now scientists know why.

Each year, only about three people out of 100,000 in the Atlanta area get infected with the virus.

That figure’s low  compared to other parts of the country, including Chicago.

For a long time the low infection rate puzzled scientists, since Atlanta’s long, hot mosquito season can last until November.

Julius Nielsen via AP

In the cold waters of the Arctic, a denizen of the deep lurked for centuries. Now scientists calculate that this female Greenland shark was the Earth's oldest living animal with a backbone.

They estimated that the gray shark, part of the species named after Greenland, was born in the icy waters roughly 400 years ago, and died only recently. That conclusion puts the entire species at the top of the longevity list.

Mikkel Winther Pedersen via AP

Researchers have found new evidence that the first Americans migrated south from Alaska via the Pacific coast, rather than a route hundreds of miles inland along the Rocky Mountains.


The colonization of the Americas began after people arrived from Siberia, crossing an ancient land bridge called Beringia into Alaska. Huge ice sheets largely blocked the way south, but a gap in western Canada was long thought to provide an ice-free corridor for migration into the continent.


By Gentry George, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Georgia's coastal salt marsh is struggling, according to a recent study. Over the past few decades, and especially in the last 15 years, the grass that makes up most of the marsh has decreased by about a third.

John Schalles, a biology professor at Crieghton University in Nebraska and an adjunct with UGA, used decades of satellite images of the central part of the coast to study the spartina grass that makes up most of the marshes.

Emory University drug development groups are working to find a treatment for those infected by the Zika virus.
Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press

The Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center is one of three U.S. sites conducting a clinical trial for a new Zika vaccine.

"It's a DNA vaccine that encodes two proteins of the Zika virus, and it'll be tested in four different groups of human volunteers,” says Dr. Sri Edupuganti, an infectious disease physician and medical director of the Hope Clinic.

The trial is in its first phase, which will focus on the vaccine's safety and see whether humans develop an immune response to the virus.

In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil.
Felipe Dana, File / Associated Press

The Obama administration warned Congress on Wednesday that money to fight the Zika virus is on the verge of running out amid political stalemate on Capitol Hill.

In a letter to key lawmakers, the secretary of Health and Human Services said the National Institutes of Health would exhaust its resources for vaccine development by month's end. The letter from HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said that without additional money the second phase of clinical trials would be delayed, and Americans would have to wait longer for a vaccine.
Courtesy of CDC

State public health officials said Georgians should take Zika virus seriously, in light of recent cases of transmission in Florida, and they have been making preparations just in case there is local transmission through a mosquito in the state.

“It is something that I think that everyone needs to be somewhat concerned about – I do not think that this is anything, though, that public needs to be panicked about,” said Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health.


Earth's fever got worse last year, breaking dozens of climate records, scientists said in a massive report nicknamed the annual physical for the planet.

Soon after 2015 ended, it was proclaimed the hottest on record. The new report shows the broad extent of other records and near-records on the planet's climatic health. Those include record heat energy absorbed by the oceans and lowest groundwater storage levels globally, according to Tuesday's report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Julio Cortez / Associated Press

It's one of the most universal recommendations in all of public health: Floss daily to prevent gum disease and cavities.

Except there's little proof that flossing works.

The federal government has recommended flossing since 1979. Last year, the Associated Press asked the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for their evidence.

Toby Talbot / Associated Press

Some Georgia blood banks will begin testing donors for the Zika virus.

It comes as officials in Florida investigate several cases of the virus, which are believed to be the first transmitted by mosquitos on the U.S. mainland.  

Jill Evans, vice president of blood supplier LifeSouth, said they're testing at their three Georgia locations, starting Tuesday, as an extra precaution.

“The blood donors who come to us are healthy,” said Evans, “but they may have Zika virus, because 80 percent of the people who contract Zika are asymptomatic.”

Andre Penner / Associated Press

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced the number of Zika cases likely spread by local mosquitoes had increased to 14 and asked Monday for a federal emergency response team to help the state combat the spread of the virus in the U.S.

The governor also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue a travel warning to pregnant women or those thinking of becoming pregnant to avoid a square mile area in Miami-Dade County, where officials believe the active transmissions of Zika are occurring.

Elise Amendola / associated press file

The ALS Association is crediting money raised through the Ice Bucket Challenge for the discovery of a gene they say is among the most common that contribute to the progressive disease.

Those who accepted the challenge allowed buckets of ice water to be dumped on their heads to raise awareness of ALS.

The challenge became a viral sensation in 2014 and raised more than $100 million for the association. Some of that money helped fund a global effort to help find genetic drivers of the condition called Project MinE.

In this Jan. 18, 2016, file photo, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito acquires a blood meal on the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Andre Penner, File / AP Photo

The Centers for Disease Control will award nearly $60 million to help cities, states and territories in efforts to combat the Zika virus, after Congress adjourned for the summer without acting on a bill that included more than $1 billion to combat the disease. According to the CDC, Georgia will be receiving $1.2 million in funds.

"We can't wait around," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. "We've got to do what we can with funding that we have to make sure states are prepared."

SpaceX finally made good on its delivery of a space station docking port Wednesday morning.

A Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station, bearing more than 2 tons of supplies. The shipment includes a docking port needed for future rocket ships. SpaceX is working on a crew-worthy Dragon, while Boeing is developing a capsule for astronauts named Starliner.

Has your child swallowed a small battery? In the future, a tiny robot made from pig gut could capture it and expel it.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are designing an ingestible robot that could be used to patch wounds, deliver medicine or dislodge a foreign object. They call their experiment an "origami robot" because the accordion-shaped gadget gets folded up and frozen into an ice capsule.

Molly Samuel / WABE

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Atlanta is expanding its location near Emory and also at clinics around the metro area. It's faced criticism in the past for long wait times for services. Officials say the expansion should streamline patient care.

The VA Hospital is adding a new wing for urgent care and another one, where primary care and mental health services will be alongside each other.

On Thursday’s "Medical Minute," WABE's "Closer Look" host Jim Burress and contributor Dr. Ford Vox talk about the state of mental health care in America and the controversial connection to mass shootings.

The numbers of psychiatrists are in decline, as are inpatient psychiatric beds, and a recent report ranked Georgia near the very bottom of states for access to mental health care. Does the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which recently passed the U.S. House, offer some hope? 

For more information:

Be cautious before you bake your next cake.

General Mills Inc. is recalling two of its Betty Crocker cake mixes.

Officials say its Super Moist Party Rainbow Chip Cake Mix and its Super Moist Carrot Cake Mix have flour that might contains E. coli.

More information can be found here.

No related illnesses have been reported thus far.  

Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry executive director Laura Drake holds a sleeve of sandwiches packed by volunteers.
Kate Sweeney / WABE

  Every weekday morning in the summer, 9-year-old Jayden Towns lines up with about two dozen other neighborhood kids under a shady tree in his Snellville neighborhood. They come to collect bagged lunches from volunteers from Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry.

The summer meal program rolled out by the co-op is one of hundreds trying to fill a growing need around the state. Nearly 60 percent of Georgia's public school children are eligible for free or reduced lunches, but once summer rolls around, fewer than 15 percent of them have access to those meals.

Alex Brandon / AP Photo

A new report out of the University of Georgia says legalizing medical marijuana lowers national prescription drug costs.

The father-daughter research team looked at prescriptions filed from 2010 to 2013 with Medicare's prescription benefits program, known as Part D. They then narrowed the search to the District of Columbia and 17 states that had legalized medical marijuana as of 2013, and chose nine conditions for which marijuana could serve as an alternative treatment.

Piedmont Hospital
Al Such / WABE

When Bernie Marcus had bypass surgery at Piedmont Hospital in Buckhead, the staff was great, he said. But the facility, in his opinion was not. Cardiac services were spread out, which meant patients had to travel to different floors.

Rather than complain, the 87-year-old gave $75 million to Piedmont for a new medical office tower. It would house the hospital’s cardiac services under one roof.

In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago.
Nam Y. Huh, File / AP Photo

On Thursday's "Medical Minute," Jim Burress and Dr. Ford Vox talk about the FDA’s plan to start regulating e-cigarettes, and why that’s an important step. Shady manufacturers have flooded the market with faulty devices that can cause burns and even explode, but even when they work as advertised, they have their own health risks and you should think twice. There’s plenty of evidence the e-cigarette industry is targeting kids, and using them appears to make it six times more likely a teenager will go on to start smoking regular cigarettes.

For more information:

Georgia DNR, taken under USFWS research permit #MA37808A-0

Scientists in Georgia are studying the habits of manatees. They’re catching, then tagging them with GPS transmitters, so they can track where they go.

The big, slow marine mammals come from Florida up to the Georgia coast during warm months. They can actually migrate as far north as Rhode Island, said Monica Ross, a research scientist with the nonprofit Sea to Shore Alliance.

A new online tool could help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

That's according to researchers at Emory University, who helped develop the first online calculator that assesses a patient’s risk of developing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia.

Emory psychologist Elaine Walker says similar tools have been used for years by medical professionals to assess factors related to conditions like strokes.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Association

The federal government is considering allowing companies to search for oil and natural gas in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Southern states. Earlier this year, the Obama administration decided not to allow any drilling there, but the surveying could still happen. And environmental groups say the surveys could harm ocean life like North Atlantic right whales, which breed off the Georgia coast.  

Fourth of July can be a challenging holiday for veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome because of the loud fireworks, mental health experts say.

It's an ironic situation, since citizens wouldn't be celebrating the freedom that's so much a part of the Fourth of July holiday without the contributions made by veterans, said Jamie Lee Jacobs of the Counseling Cottage in Rome, Georgia. Yet some veterans can't enjoy it because of PTSD, she said.

Jacobs has worked with veterans and their families since 2001, The Rome News-Tribune reported.

Mike Stewart / Associated Press

On Thursday's "Medical Minute," Jim Burress and Dr. Ford Vox talk about the cardiovascular risks of city life that we breathe in. Atlanta is on the right track, but there’s no safe dose of air pollution, and thanks to a 10-year study in six American cities, we now know that our arteries don’t like smog any more than our lungs.

For more information:

terry spencer / Associated Press

 A smelly, "guacamole-thick" muck is fouling a stretch of beaches promoted as Florida's "Treasure Coast," where lawmakers and residents blame the federal government, saying the algae crisis is fueled by freshwater flows controlled by Army officials to protect an erosion-prone dike.

The blue-green algae is the latest contaminant featured in yearslong arguments over water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida's water supply and flood control systems.


NASA's Juno spacecraft is approaching Jupiter. It's scheduled to arrive at the giant planet Monday night.

One scientist who plans to forgo the fireworks that night in favor of watching the data feed in as the spacecraft enters Jupiter’s orbit is Georgia Tech's Paul Steffes, who’s been involved in the Juno Mission since its inception more than a decade ago.  

The Chattahoochee River is one of the major state rivers at risk, according to the Georgia Water Coalition. In August, the state got rid of a minimum water flow requirement to allow for a reserve in case of a drought.
David Barasoain / WABE

Drought conditions are expanding around Atlanta and north Georgia. Nearly half the state is drier than usual, and a quarter of the state is now labeled either in "severe" or "extreme" drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

“The last time that we saw this in Georgia was back in that long multi-year drought ending in March 2013,” said Jordan McLeod, regional climatologist at the Southeast Regional Climate Center. “It's been a few years, but it's not something Georgia hasn't seen before.”