Health

The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

VPR reporters Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel cover health issues from the Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Follow them on Twitter for the latest health and Vermont health industry news.

Explore our coverage by topic or chronologically by scrolling through the list below

Aging Well | Homelessness & Housing | Opioid Addiction | UVM Medical Center

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It's official: This week U.S. health authorities announced that the mutant strain of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom last winter is now the predominant strain in the United States. And it's been found in at least 130 other countries as well.

Racism is a scourge in American society. It's also a serious public health threat, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement released Thursday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky pointed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, as seen in case numbers, deaths and social consequence.

A woman smiling into a screen with headphones on
Erica Heilman / VPR

When a Vermonter tests positive for COVID, it sets into motion a series of calls with the Health Department. First, a notification call, then a conversation with a contact tracer to try and identify all recent close contacts. Contact tracing is part-detective work, part-psychology.

A small nugget of dried marijuana held in a begloved hand.
Crystalweed Cannabis / unsplash

Vermont is among more than 15 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational cannabis. But broader social acceptance of the drug doesn't address the  health and public safety concerns that come with more people using it. A new app developed by a St. Michael's College psychology professor could help.

Since the pandemic began, pregnant people have faced a difficult choice: to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

The risk of severe disease or even death from COVID-19 — while small — is higher during pregnancy. More than 82,000 coronavirus infections among pregnant individuals and 90 maternal deaths from the disease have been reported in the U.S. as of last month.

Updated March 31, 2021 at 2:29 PM ET

COVID-19 was the third-underlying cause of death in 2020 after heart disease and cancer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Wednesday.

Something weird happened on the primitive mountain bike trails outside of Kansas City last spring. Coleen Voeks says she went from seeing a person or two stretched out along miles of trail there, to seeing a mass of humanity.

"As soon as the pandemic hit everybody went outside," says Voeks, a trail running coach. "So the trails became so crowded with people, new people, families, you know, people who'd never been to the trails before."

A person in a flannel shirt and dark khaki pants leans on a sign directing traffic to a state-run COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Winooski.
Kari Anderson / VPR

On Friday, the Scott administration announced a vaccination timeline for all remaining age bands in Vermont, saying the state could "get back to normal" by the Fourth of July. In our weekly health update: answers to your questions about this and other COVID-19 news.

Health care systems endured a stress test like no other over the past year as COVID-19 patients filled up hospital beds and intensive care units. Health care workers pleaded with the public to "flatten the curve," yet each surge in 2020 was worse than the next.

Now two recent studies quantify the consequences of flooding hospitals with COVID-19 patients and add urgency to continued efforts to keep cases and hospitalizations down.

As President Biden pushes to get students back in schools, there's one crucial question: How much social distance is necessary in the classroom?

The answer (to that question) has huge consequences for how many students can safely fit into classrooms. Public schools in particular are finding it difficult to accommodate a full return if 6 feet of social distancing is required — a key factor behind many schools offering hybrid schedules that bring students back to the classroom just a few days a week.

For many years, Jessica Duenas led what she calls a double life. She was the first in her immigrant family to go to college. In 2019, she won Kentucky's Teacher of the Year award. That same year, Duenas typically downed nearly a liter of liquor every night.

By the time she was 34, she was diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis, a serious inflammation of her liver that doctors warned could could soon lead to irreversible scarring and even death if she didn't didn't stop drinking, and quickly.

A sign reading 'COVID-19 If You Enter VT You Must Isolate HealthVermont.Gov'
Elodie Reed / VPR File

It was nearly one year ago, on Friday, March 13, 2020, when Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency in Vermont in response to COVID-19. Much has changed since then for Vermont, the nation and the world. This hour, we talk about the many ways life has changed amid the pandemic and consider the outlook for the future.

More than half a million Americans have received an experimental treatment for COVID-19 called convalescent plasma. But a year into the pandemic, it's not clear who, if anyone, benefits from it.

That uncertainty highlights the challenges scientists have faced in their attempts to evaluate COVID-19 drugs.

On paper, treatment with convalescent plasma makes good sense. The idea is to take blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and infuse it into patients with active infections. The antibodies in the donated plasma, in theory, would help fight the virus.

Coronavirus FAQ: Does It Make Your Hair Fall Out?

Mar 6, 2021

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

I had COVID-19 months ago. Now my hair is falling out! What is going on?

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voiced concern on Wednesday about the recent climb in the number of new cases of the coronavirus, warning that pandemic fatigue and the loosening of restrictions may be setting the stage for yet another surge this spring.

When Latoya Jenkins talks about her mom, she likes to focus on happy memories like the games she used to play with her kids.

"She used to buy two bottles of dish soap," Jenkins said. "One bottle was for the dishes. The other bottle was for rainy days. She would take us outside and we would make bubbles."

Jenkins, who lives in upstate New York, says her mom, Sonya Hughey, had a hard life, first using crack cocaine when she was a teenager.

A vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is shown  at the University of Vermont Medical Center, on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.
University of Vermont Medical Center, Courtesy

New guidelines unveiled by Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday open the door for teachers and other staff at public schools, as well as certain public safety officials and corrections staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, Vermonters with certain high-risk medical conditions will also become eligible for a shot starting next week.

an orange prescription bottle, syringes and white pills
Moussa81 / iStock

A total of 134 Vermonters have died from opioid overdoses through November of last year, a 35% increase from the 99 deaths reported in all of 2019. A group of lawmakers met last week to discuss potential policies, and one idea stood out: decriminalizing drugs in Vermont.

The average U.S. life expectancy dropped by a year in the first half of 2020, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population was 77.8 years – a decline of 1 year from 78.8 in 2019. For males, the life expectancy at birth was 75.1 – a decline of 1.2 years from 2019. For females, life expectancy declined to 80.5 years, a 0.9 year decrease from 2019.

Tattoo artists in Europe are fighting a new ban on two commonly-used green and blue pigments, saying that losing these ink ingredients would be a disaster for their industry and their art.

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