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Michaeleen Doucleff

Imagine for a minute: A company makes a vaccine that protects kids from a life-threatening disease but, with little warning, decides to stop selling it in the U.S.

That's exactly what happened last year in West Africa, for a vaccine against rotavirus — a disease that kills about 200,000 young children and babies each year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved one of the most sought after vaccines in recent decades. It's the world's first vaccine to prevent dengue fever — a disease so painful that its nickname is "breakbone fever."

The vaccine, called Dengvaxia, is aimed at helping children in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories where dengue is a problem.

Measles is surging. Last week the U.S. recorded 90 cases, making this year's outbreak the second largest in more than two decades.

So far this year, the U.S. has confirmed 555 measles cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday. That's 50 percent higher than the total number recorded last year, even though we're only about a quarter of the way through 2019.

And the virus isn't slowing down.

Back in the 1960s, a Harvard graduate student made a landmark discovery about the nature of human anger.

At age 34, Jean Briggs traveled above the Arctic Circle and lived out on the tundra for 17 months. There were no roads, no heating systems, no grocery stores. Winter temperatures could easily dip below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Briggs persuaded an Inuit family to "adopt" her and "try to keep her alive," as the anthropologist wrote in 1970.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Inc. is ending a long-term agreement to supply a lifesaving vaccine for children in West Africa.

At the same time, the company has started sending the vaccine to China, where it will likely be sold for a much higher price.

The vaccine is for a deadly form of diarrhea, called rotavirus, which kills about 200,000 young children and babies each year.

The rate of cesarean sections around the world is increasing at an "alarming" rate, reported an international team of doctors and scientists on Thursday.

Since 1990, C-sections have more than tripled from about 6 percent of all births to 21 percent, three studies report in The Lancet. And there are no "signs of slowing down," the researchers write in a commentary about the studies.

Maybe the short answer is: We need a better imagination?

The global health world hasn't set its goals high enough, hasn't dreamed big enough when it comes to stopping tuberculosis, says Dr. Paul Farmer, physician at Harvard Medical School and founder of the nonprofit Partners In Health.

"We've had a failure of imagination," he says. "We haven't had the same optimism, commitment and high ambitious goals around TB that we've seen around HIV. And what's the downside of setting high goals? I think it's very limited."

When you go through airport security, you might wish you had a pair of gloves on like the TSA agents do.

Researchers have evidence that the plastic trays in security lines are a haven for respiratory viruses. The trays likely harbor more of these pathogens than the flushing button on the airport toilets, researchers reported last week in BMC Infectious Diseases.

Eww.

If hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.

But there it was, right in front of me: A preteen voluntarily doing chores around the house.

There was no fuss. No nagging or whining. And there were no visible rewards.

I was visiting Maya families in the Yucatan, reporting for NPR's special parenting series #HowToRaiseAHuman. While I was interviewing one mom her 12-year-old daughter went over to the dishes and started washing away — without being asked.

The world now has a potent, new weapon against malaria — one that can wipe out the parasite from a person's body with a single dose.

But before many people around the world can use it, scientists have to overcome a big obstacle.

After a woman gives birth to her baby, labor is not over. She also has to birth the placenta, and this can be quite risky.

The placenta attaches to the uterus through a series of blood vessels, which reach from the mom into the placenta. After childbirth, the placenta tears off the uterus, leaving these vessels open and exposed.

Back in the early 1990s, psychologist Suzanne Gaskins was living in a small Maya village near Valladolid, Yucatán, when she struck up a conversation with two sisters, ages 7 and 9.

The girls started telling her — with great pride — about all the chores they did after school. "I wash my own clothes," the 7-year-old said. The older sister then one-upped her and declared, "I wash my clothes and my baby brother's clothes."

This story was originally published in May 2018.

There's no other way to put it: Maria de los Angeles Tun Burgos is a supermom.

She's raising five children, does housework and chores — we're talking about fresh tortillas every day made from stone-ground corn — and she helps with the family's business in their small village about 2 1/2 hours west of Cancún on the Yucatán Peninsula.

A hundred years ago, the world was struck by a nightmare scenario.

World War I was still raging. And then a suspicious disease appeared.

Scratch another Guinea worm hot spot off the list.

One of the countries hardest hit with the parasite — South Sudan — has finally stopped transmission, the Carter Center announced Wednesday.

The country reported zero cases in 2017 and hasn't had a case in 15 months. There are also no signs Guinea worm is circulating in dogs in South Sudan, as it is in Chad and Mali.

If you want to cut your risk of catching the flu on your next flight, pick a window seat and stay put.

That's a key take-home message of a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Earlier this week, we shared the remarkable story of Abby Beckley — and her run-in with eye worms.

When this young woman felt something crawling around in her eyes, she had the presence to remove said worm and then, over the course of a few weeks, not one, not two nor three ... but 14 nematodes came out from her eye.

At first doctors didn't believe her. Then they saw one squiggle across her eyeball.

On Christmas Day last year, a 68-year-old woman in southern China came down with the flu. A week later she was hospitalized.

The woman eventually recovered, but she spent three weeks in the hospital.

The culprit? H7N4, a new type of bird flu.

"This is the first case of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N4) in the world," the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said Wednesday in a statement.

Oh my lordy! This story gets creepier and crazier the more you learn about it.

Back in the summer of 2016, Abby Beckley had been living on an inactive cattle ranch in southern Oregon. "There was just one cow," says the 28-year-old college student.

A few weeks later, she started to have the sensation that something was in her eye. "You know how it feels when you have an eyelash in your eye?" Beckley says. "That's exactly how it felt, but when I looked in the mirror, I couldn't see anything."

There's a glaring hole in President Trump's budget proposal for 2019, global health researchers say. A U.S. program to help other countries beef up their ability to detect pathogens around the world will lose a significant portion of its funding.

The ambitious program, called Global Health Security Agenda, was launched in early 2014, aiming to set up an early-warning system for infectious diseases across the world.

Last summer, Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of the trip.

A short drive north of Fairbanks, Alaska, there's a red shed stuck right up against a hillside. The shed looks unremarkable, except for the door. It looks like a door to a walk-in freezer, with thick insulation and a heavy latch. Whatever is behind that door needs to stay very cold.

"Are you ready to go inside?" asks Dr. Thomas Douglas, a geochemist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams clearly has conflicted feelings about marshmallows.

In a just-published interview in Vogue magazine, she and her husband talked about the so-called "marshmallow test." It's a well-known experiment to study children's self-control first run by a Stanford psychologist in the 1960s.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There's a race on. The way to win is to eradicate a human disease. That's only been done once before - smallpox. This year, two diseases got tantalizingly close, but unexpected roadblocks have popped up. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff reports.

It's not every day that surgeons develop a new brain surgery that could save tens of thousands of babies, even a hundred thousand, each year. And it's definitely not every day that the surgery is developed in one of the world's poorest countries.

But that's exactly what neurosurgeons from Boston and Mbale, Uganda, report Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

We're on the Bering Land Bridge, where woolly mammoths roamed 20,000 years ago. Today, the land is covered in bright green grass and miniature shrubs.

But there's something strange — bright white objects jutting out of the ground.

As I walk a little closer with archaeologist Owen Mason, he tells me what they are.

"Right there, that's a whale shoulder blade," Mason says, pointing to a bone about the size of a German Shepherd.

The world's only vaccine against dengue has hit a roadblock, and this complication is causing some countries to restrict use of the vaccine.

Well, it looks like women have been balancing a full-time job and motherhood for thousands of years. All the while, they haven't gotten much credit for it.

By studying the bones of ancient women in Europe, archaeologists at the University of Cambridge have uncovered a hidden history of women's manual labor, from the early days of farming about 7,500 years ago up until about 2,000 years ago.

In 1954, a mysterious disease struck children in Manila. They were showing up at hospitals with internal bleeding. Their blood vessels were leaking.

Over the next few years, similar outbreaks cropped up every rainy season. And then in 1958, a massive outbreak hit Bangkok. More than 2,500 children were hospitalized. About 10 percent of them died.

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