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Michell Eloy / WABE

Georgia officials are trying to warn travelers flying through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to protect themselves against the Zika virus in an effort to stop its spread in the U.S.

State Department of Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said the airport's shops will offer bug sprays with the recommended level of the active insect repellent, DEET. Airport officials say 3-ounce bottles of bug spray will be available for purchase before security, and that travelers can buy larger-sized bottles after security.

University of Victoria/Danielle Claar via AP

The coral on the South Pacific sea floor around Kiritimati looked like a boneyard in November — stark, white and lifeless. But there was still some hope.

In April, color returned with fuzzy reds and browns, but that's not good news. Algae has overtaken the lifeless coral on what had been some of the most pristine coral reefs on the planet, said University of Victoria coral reef scientist Julia Baum after dozens of dives in the past week. Maybe 5 percent will survive, she estimated.

Smoking on college campuses has lessened thanks to tobacco-free campaigns across Georgia and the country.
Carolyn Kaster, File / Associated Press

Georgia ranks higher than the national average when it comes to people who have unhealthy behaviors, according to a recent report by the United Health Foundation.

The report tracks behaviors associated with chronic diseases, like physical inactivity, excessive drinking and insufficient sleep. The report found 13.3 percent of adults in Georgia have three or more unhealthy behaviors, compared to 12 percent of adults nationwide. 

A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in Liberia, the World Health Organization said Friday, a setback for the country that had been declared free from Ebola transmissions in January.

Health authorities at the Redemption Hospital in the densely populated New Kru Town suburbs of Monrovia said a 30-year-old woman died of Ebola.

The woman died Thursday night, said the head of Liberia's Ebola response, Tolbert Nyenswah.

"She died on arrival and a swab was taken, analyzed in the lab and was confirmed," Nyenswah said. "We are investigating the source."

USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency / flickr.com/photos/usepagov/

Climate change, air quality and water pollution are not just environmental issues; they also affect people's health.

In Atlanta, the city is working on cleaning up long-running issues of flooding and pollution in neighborhoods along Proctor Creek, on the city’s west side.

Georgia Power is beginning to close its coal ash ponds, which hold a byproduct from burning coal that can contaminate water.

 In this Sunday, June 1, 2014, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer is photographed in Juliette, Ga.
John Amis, File / AP Photo

Georgia Power will close a dozen coal ash ponds, including four inside the perimeter, in the next two years. The company plans to close all 29 of its ponds eventually; most within 10 years.  

Coal ash is a byproduct from burning coal for electricity. It can contain toxic materials, and there have been catastrophic failures of coal ash ponds in other states in recent years. There have also been instances of it leaking into groundwater.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

President Barack Obama visited Atlanta on Tuesday to discuss new ways his administration wants to tackle a growing prescription painkiller and heroin epidemic.

Obama spoke at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, where he unveiled a series of plans to expand access to medicines that can help people fight addiction.

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

The Atlanta area does not have the best public transportation options, so many residents face long, solitary drives to work.

A new study finds this may be having a deadly effect on our health.

The study, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, found that Georgia has 5,600 excessive deaths each year.

A concrete pipe below this coal ash impoundment failed, releasing between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of ash pond water waste into the Dan River.
Steven Alexander / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review its regulations on coal ash, which is a by-product from burning coal for electricity.

Some communities are fighting plans to bring coal ash to their municipal landfills, and Johnson said he thinks the EPA’s regulations aren’t strict enough.

Jeff Chiu, File / Associated Press

A growing number of states are weighing whether to legalize marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. But for many veterans, the debate is already over.

They're increasingly using cannabis even though it remains illegal in most states and is unapproved by the Department of Veterans Affairs because major studies have yet to show it is effective against PTSD.

Courtesy of University of Georgia Office of Public Service and Outreach

If you’re in the Atlanta area and want to eat oysters, one of the places to go is Kimball House in Decatur. On any given day, they might have oysters from Washington State, California, South Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. The menu changes daily.  

“A lot of my focus is on maintaining what we hope others will view as a really solid oyster menu,” said Bryan Rackley, one of the owners of the restaurant.

Federal health officials are moving to ban most surgical gloves made with powder, a feature designed to make them easier to wear, but which actually poses health risks to patients.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that the powder added to some latex gloves can cause breathing problems, wound inflammation and scar tissue on internal organs when used during surgery. The agency proposed the ban Monday in a federal filing.

Damian Dovarganes, File / AP Photo

 Measles and whooping cough, also known as pertussis. They’re not illnesses we tend to think of as being especially common these days.

Dr. Saad Omer, professor of global health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, says there's a reason for that: "Vaccines have been the main reason why we’ve eliminated, for example, the indigenous transmission of measles in the U.S."

Omer led a team that analyzed recent decades of measles and pertussis outbreaks.

The World Health Organization deployed specialists to southeast Guinea on Friday after two new Ebola cases were confirmed.

The cases were announced just hours after Sierra Leone heralded the end of its recent Ebola flare-up, again dashing hopes that the deadly disease was gone from West Africa.

The new cases occurred in Koropara, in the remote N'Zerekore prefecture in southeast Guinea, 620 miles from the capital, said Ibrahima Sylla, a spokesman for the national coordination for the fight against Ebola.

m01229 (cropped) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06/

Offshore oil drilling could come to the Georgia coast. The Obama administration is considering allowing it in the Atlantic, and will soon release a plan that could narrow down where it would be permitted.

The Atlantic has been closed to drilling -- or even looking -- for oil for decades. Last year, the Department of the Interior said it would consider oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. The next step is a draft plan, expected to come out soon, that could declare some areas, or even the entire coast, off limits.

Federal Funds Address Opioid Epidemic, But Not In Atlanta

Mar 14, 2016
Toby Talbot / Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday $94 million of Affordable Care Act funding for substance abuse addiction. The funding is part of a push to address rising opioid abuse, of drugs like heroin and prescription pain medications, and deaths from overdoses.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States,” says HHS Regional Director Pamela Roshell. “Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S., more than car crashes.”

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) arrives at a press conference across the street from the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison to speak with the media after visiting with death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis in Jackson, Georgia, Thursday, May 29, 2009.
Paul Abell / Associated Press

Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson says he wants to tighten regulations on coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for electricity that can contain toxic materials, including arsenic and mercury. Coal ash can also be reused in products like wallboard and concrete.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said it's safe to store it in municipal landfills, but Johnson said he'd like to see that decision changed.

Construction near Cumberland Boulevard
Al Such / WABE

A proposed law that would streamline road construction in Georgia is running into resistance from archaeologists.

They say it would threaten unknown grave sites, historical objects and ancient artifacts that have yet to be unearthed. It also could take away one of the key ways archaeologists do their work: As a part of the environmental review that's currently required in the state.

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

As the sea level rises, roads, homes and hotels will all be affected. So will natural habitats, like the miles and miles of marshes on Georgia’s coast. A University of Georgia project aims to help the state adapt.

The sea level has gone up about a foot in the last century, and scientists project it could go up another three feet in the next century.

“Areas that are now dry land, will become intertidal in the future,” said Clark Alexander, a coastal geologist at UGA’s Skidaway Insititute of Oceanography. “And so these are areas where marshes will develop over time.”

David Goldman / Associated Press

Health officials say supergerms cause 1 out of 7 infections caught in U.S. hospitals.

The bugs include the staph infection MRSA and five other bacteria resistant to many kinds of antibiotics.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called Thursday for doctors and hospitals to be more careful in how they use antibiotics. Misuse allows the germs to develop resistance.

The CDC estimates that on any given day, 1 in 25 hospital patients has an infection they picked up after being admitted. The agency released the report Thursday.

Most people at a public hearing in Waynesboro, GA in May, 2015 opposed the use of eminent domain to build the Palmetto Pipeline.
Molly Samuel / WABE

A fuel pipeline that would travel the length of the Georgia coast has hit another roadblock. On Monday, a judge in Atlanta ruled that the company that wants to built it, Palmetto Products Pipe Line, cannot use eminent domain.

The company, which is a subsidiary of the energy giant Kinder Morgan, wants to build the 360-mile pipeline from Belton, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida.  

Mark Lennihan / associated press file

A Georgia State University biologist is using a $1.37 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to find a new way to treat obesity.

Georgia State associate biology professor Bingzhong Xue has been doing research on the regulation of temperature in our body for the last 20 years.

Specifically, she studies brown adipose tissue, one of two kinds of fat in the human body. The other is white fat, which gets stored as energy in our body.

A sign lets customers know they can get a flu shot in a Walgreen store.
Darron Cummings / Associated Press

  

Have you got your flu shot yet?

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the overall influenza vaccine effectiveness rate is 59 percent for the current flu season.

That's according to preliminary data presented at the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices in Atlanta.

Officials at the CDC say flu activity this season started a little bit later than usual and is expected to continue for about another month.

Although the effectiveness of yearly flu vaccines vary, the CDC recommends a yearly flu shot.  

Michell Eloy

In a nondescript office park outside Atlanta, researchers at Emory University's Hope Clinic are running tests on blood and plasma.

The samples come from people who received an experimental Ebola vaccine, which made it to a final efficacy trial in West Africa. Unfortunately, it arrived a little too late.

“We were unable to have enough cases, which is a good thing,” said Emory’s Dr. Mark Mulligan. “We’re glad the cases went down, but for the vaccine, we didn’t get to answer that all important final question: Does it protect?”

Emory University drug development groups are working to find a treatment for those infected by the Zika virus.
Courtesy of Emory Institute for Drug Development

More than 20 scientists with two drug development groups at Emory University are working to develop a treatment for the Zika virus.

Dr. Abel  De La Rosa said while federal health agencies like the National Institutes for Health work on developing a vaccine, it's important for other scientists to be working on a drug to treat people who've already been infected. De La Rosa is the chief scientific officer of both the Emory Institute for Drug Development (EIDD) and Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory (DRIVE). 

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

The World Health Organization says it may be necessary to use controversial methods like genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the insects that are spreading the Zika virus across the Americas.

The virus has been linked to a spike in babies born with abnormally small heads, or microcephaly, in Brazil and French Polynesia. The U.N. health agency has declared Zika a global emergency, even though there is no definitive proof it is causing the birth defects.

Emily Buss / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill via AP

From the cacophony of day care to the buzz of TV and electronic toys, noise is more distracting to a child's brain than an adult's, and new research shows it can hinder how youngsters learn.

In fact, one of the worst offenders when a tot's trying to listen is other voices babbling in the background, researchers said at a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"What a child hears in a noisy environment is not what an adult hears," said Dr. Lori Leibold of Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

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 World Health Organization says possible Zika vaccines are at least 18 months away from large-scale trials.

WHO assistant director-general for health systems and innovation Marie-Paule Kieny says the U.N. health agency's response is "proceeding very quickly" and 15 companies or groups have been identified as possible participants in the hunt for vaccines.

She told reporters in Geneva on Friday that WHO also believes the link between the mosquito-borne virus and abnormally small heads in some newborn children is "more and more probable."

Lisa Hagen / WABE

The news of gravitational waves rolled out across the globe this morning, but a group of students and faculty at Georgia Tech have been quietly savoring the discovery for months.

As David Reitze, executive director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), made the announcement at a press conference in Washington D.C., a packed watch party at Georgia Tech cheered.

Gravitational wave astrophysicist Deirdre Shoemaker helped lead the school's researchers. She said she was asleep the morning the wave came through.

 In this Sunday, June 1, 2014, file photo, the coal-fired Plant Scherer is photographed in Juliette, Ga.
John Amis, File / AP Photo

Georgia will stop its work toward implementing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

Georgia is one of 27 states that had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay implementation of the plan. The court granted the stay Tuesday night.

The Clean Power Plan is a key piece of the Obama administration’s efforts to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Under the rule, the EPA sets carbon reduction goals for each state. How to achieve those goals is left up to the states to decide for themselves.

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