Richard Knox

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.

Among other things, Knox's NPR reports have examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean; anthrax terrorism; smallpox and other bioterrorism preparedness issues; the rising cost of medical care; early detection of lung cancer; community caregiving; music and the brain; and the SARS epidemic.

Before joining NPR, Knox covered medicine and health for The Boston Globe. His award-winning 1995 articles on medical errors are considered landmarks in the national movement to prevent medical mistakes. Knox is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Columbia University. He has held yearlong fellowships at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and is the author of a 1993 book on Germany's health care system.

He and his wife Jean, an editor, live in Boston. They have two daughters.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:48 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

India Marks A Year Free Of Polio

An Indian boy receives a polio vaccination from an Indian health worker in Amritsar last year.
Narinder Nanu AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 13, 2012 4:08 pm

A year ago today, India saw its last recorded case of polio in an 18-month-old girl in West Bengal named Rukhsar Khatoon. She recovered without lasting paralysis.

One year without another case is an impressive milestone in the decades-long effort to wipe the poliovirus from the face of the planet. Only a few years ago, India reported more polio cases than anywhere else — as many as 100,000 cases a year.

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Shots - Health Blog
8:55 am
Wed January 11, 2012

A Dozen Cases Of Tuberculosis That Resists All Drugs Found In India

An image of Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria captured with an electron microscope.
CDC

Tuberculosis specialists in India have diagnosed infections in a dozen patients in Mumbai that are unfazed by the three first-choice TB drugs and all nine second-line drugs.

The doctors are calling them "totally drug-resistant TB," and the infections are essentially incurable with all available medicines.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:50 am
Fri January 6, 2012

Monkey Experiments Boost Hope For Human AIDS Vaccine

A rendering of a key protein the simian immunodeficiency virus uses to reproduce.
Wikimedia Commons

Researchers trudging down the long and twisted path toward an AIDS vaccine are encouraged by new studies that show an experimental vaccine protects monkeys against infection with a virus that is very similar to HIV.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:10 am
Wed January 4, 2012

In US, Hospital Round Trips More Common For Heart Attack Patients

In the U.S., hospitalized heart attack patients go home sooner than in other countries. They are more likely to return to the hospital within a month of being discharged.
iStockphoto.com

If a heart attack sends you to an American hospital, you'll probably go home after only two or three nights. That's faster than virtually anyplace else in the world.

But your chances of needing to go back into the hospital within the next month are also higher than they are for heart attack patients in 16 other countries. That's the finding from a Duke University-led study in this week's JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Tue December 27, 2011

Antiviral Drugs Sparkle In The Race To End AIDS

Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS coordinator, says field testing is necessary and urgent to determine if HIV testing-and-treating services are feasible.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

2011 has been a momentous year in the 30-year-old AIDS pandemic.

The big breakthrough was the discovery that antiviral drugs can prevent someone who's infected with HIV from passing the virus to others. It's nearly 100 percent effective. That led President Obama to declare earlier this month that the U.S. will expand HIV treatment in hard-hit countries by 50 percent.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Sun December 25, 2011

Singing Therapy Helps Stroke Patients Speak Again

Laurel Fontaine, 16, (left) and her twin sister Heather. When Laurel was 11 years old, she suffered a stroke that destroyed 80 percent of the left side of her brain. The singing therapy helped her regain the ability to speak.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 9:39 am

Debra Meyerson was hiking near Lake Tahoe 15 months ago when a stroke destroyed part of the left side of her brain, leaving her literally speechless. It happens to more than 150,000 Americans a year.

But now Meyerson is learning to talk again through an approach that trains the undamaged right side of her brain to "speak." Specifically, it's a region that controls singing.

For more than 100 years, it's been known that people who can't speak after injury to the speech centers on the left side of the brain can sing.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:22 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

Many Police Officers Are Sleep Deprived, Risky For Them And Us

Sleepy police were likelier to fall asleep while driving, a new survey of nearly 5,000 officers in the U.S. and Canada finds. About 40 percent of officers surveyed reported sleep disorders, with various health implications.
Sean Locke iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 20, 2011 5:33 pm

Harvard researchers say they've uncovered a big problem among the nation's 700,000 police officers: a serious lack of sleep.

In what's believed to be the first study of its kind, the researchers queried nearly 5,000 municipal and state police officers in the U.S. and Canada about their sleep habits and symptoms of possible sleep disorders. Then they assessed their on-duty performance for two years.

Forty percent had sleep disorders, and the vast majority of these were undiagnosed before.

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Shots - Health Blog
8:56 am
Fri December 9, 2011

With Doubts, FDA Panel Votes For Yaz And Related Contaceptives

Katie Anderson, shown with her mother, Beth, in 2010, suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Her symptoms started within a month of taking the birth control pill Yaz.
Jane Greenhalgh NPR

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 3:52 pm

Doubts have been growing about Yasmin, Yaz and their sister contraceptives for several years now. And those doubts reached full flower at a Food Drug Administration advisory panel on Thursday.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:51 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Why Observing Prostate Cancers Is Gaining Ground On Surgery

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 3:26 pm

A federally convened panel of experts says most men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer should be offered the chance to put off treatment in favor of medical monitoring of their condition.

In fact, the panel went so far as to say doctors should stop calling most of these low-risk tumors cancer at all.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:33 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

US AIDS Chief Says Tipping Point Is In Sight

Eric Goosby, United States Global AIDS Coordinator, sees a turning point for HIV coming soon.
Brendan Hoffman Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 2, 2011 3:51 pm

If all goes according to plan — the plan President Obama laid out on Thursday — the HIV pandemic may reach an important tipping point by the end of 2013.

"We believe that with 2 million more people in treatment, we will reach a point where the number of new infections is less than the number going into treatment," says Dr. Eric Goosby.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:59 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Obama Embraces 'End of AIDS,' Promises To Accelerate HIV Treatment

AIDS activists haven't always been happy with Barack Obama. But many of them were on this Worlds AIDS Day.

The president used the occasion to pledge a 50 percent increase in the number of HIV-infected people getting treatment through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR — from around 4 million now to 6 million by the end of 2013.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:05 am
Wed November 30, 2011

HIV Treatment Lags In U.S., Guaranteeing More Infections

The latest numbers from CDC show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective antiviral treatment; effective treatment rates are lowest among African-American men.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

The United States is doing a pretty miserable job of treating people with HIV.

The latest numbers show that only 28 percent of the nation's 1.2 million HIV-infected people are getting effective treatment — that is, antiviral medications to keep the virus in check.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:01 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Scientists Bag Small Game In Bathroom Germ Safari

Right this way, ladies and germs.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed November 23, 2011 4:03 pm

Turns out Howard Hughes was right. The world is a very germy place, especially public restrooms.

The reclusive billionaire, who had the world's most notorious case of so-called germophobia, would go to just about any length to avoid contamination. He wore tissue boxes on his feet. He burned his clothing if someone near him got sick. He wrote careful instructions to his staff on how to open a can of peaches without contaminating them.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Sun November 20, 2011

Shortage Of ADHD Drugs Has Parents, Doctors Scrambling

The scarcity of ADHD medications is a problem faced by an untold number of children and adults with the disorder.
GoodMood Enterprises iStockphoto

When it's time to renew her son's prescriptions for medicine to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Roxanne Ryan prepares for another wild goose chase.

The Philadelphia mother says she typically has to call around to 10 to 15 different pharmacies to find where the prescriptions can be filled. And when 10-year-old Sergey doesn't get his medication, he's a bundle of uncontained energy.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:01 pm
Sun November 6, 2011

Why HPV Vaccination Of Boys May Be Easier

Connor Perruccello-McClellan, a senior at Providence Country Day School in Rhode Island, has been vaccinated against HPV, something less than 1 percent of U.S. males can say.
Richard Knox NPR

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a half-dozen years ago that preteen girls be vaccinated against human papillomavirus, two things happened.

A lot of parents and some conservative groups were jarred by the idea of immunizing young girls against a sexually transmitted virus. And uptake of the vaccine has been poor — only about a third of 13- to 17-year-old girls have gotten the full three-shot series.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:34 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

CDC: Time To Curb 'Shocking' Epidemic Of Narcotics Overdoses

Originally published on Tue November 1, 2011 5:14 pm

Federal officials say they're making headway in their push to stem abuse of addictive painkillers. Still, they say, U.S. doctors are prescribing enough narcotics to medicate every American around the clock for a month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses may soon overtake car crashes as the nation's leading cause of fatal injury.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:02 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Obama Tackles Rx Drug Shortages

President Obama is wielding a unilateral prerogative of his office – the executive order – to get something done about a worsening shortage of essential drugs.

It's a problem that earlier this month one administration official called "a dire public health situation." Many thousands of patients with cancer, life-threatening infections, cardiac disease, severe gastrointestinal disorders and many other conditions aren't able to get the drugs they need.

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Shots - Health Blog
10:54 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Stomach Bug Has A Field Day At NBA

Locker rooms and clubhouses should be disinfected regularly with a solution such as bleach that's effective against the stubborn norovirus, researchers say.

iStockphoto.com

It's the season for stomach bugs again. And if you want to know just how contagious those bugs can be, just ask the National Basketball Association.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives the play-by-play on an outbreak of gastrointestinal misery that afflicted as many as 13 NBA teams a year ago, spreading rapidly from player to player and from players to team staffers.

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Shots - Health Blog
5:59 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Advice To Guideline-Writers: Keep Patients Involved in PSA Decision

Hey guys, feeling confused about the fuss over PSA screening for prostate cancer?

Listen up. A couple of docs who ponder such medical dilemmas say there's a middle ground between business-as-usual and throwing PSA tests out altogether.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:54 am
Thu October 20, 2011

After A Half-Million Cholera Cases, Vaccination Will Begin In Haiti

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last month spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.

Thony Belizaire AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 20, 2011 10:38 am

A year after cholera burst upon earthquake-weary Haiti, plans are afoot to begin vaccinating people against the highly contagious disease.

Nearly half a million Haitians — about 5 percent of the population — have already been afflicted and more than 6,500 have died.

But the goal of the vaccinators isn't to stop cholera in its tracks. They can't do that in Haiti with just 200,000 doses — enough for only 100,000 people — that's all the manufacturer can offer.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:06 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Slashes Infection Risk By Half

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 2:33 pm

After decades of disappointment, researchers think they're finally on track to unleash the first practical vaccine against malaria, one of mankind's ancient scourges.

In the world's first large field trial of an experimental malaria vaccine, several thousand young children who got three doses had about 55 percent less risk of getting the disease over a year than those who got a control vaccine against rabies or meningitis.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:35 pm
Tue October 11, 2011

Vitamin E Pills May Raise, Not Lower, Prostate Cancer Risk

iStockphoto.com

Vitamins seem like such a good thing that drugstores have whole aisles devoted to them, including products that promise a healthy prostate.

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Shots - Health Blog
6:00 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Women Exposed To Hormone In Utero Face Lifelong Health Problems

A still from A Healthy Baby Girl, a 1996 documentary in which filmmaker Judith Helfand chronicles the health consequences of her own in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).

Courtesy of Women Make Movies

Originally published on Thu October 6, 2011 9:51 am

Back in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, doctors prescribed a hormone called diethylstilbestrol, or DES, to millions of pregnant women in the unfounded belief it would prevent miscarriages.

Smack in the middle of this period, the deformed thalidomide babies demonstrated the terrible things that can happen when drugs are casually prescribed during pregnancy.

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Shots - Health Blog
2:33 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Surprise In Your Sewage: Lots Of Exotic Viruses

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 9:03 am

You think your job is tough? Some scientists examined sewage from Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa in a hunt for unknown viruses.

They found scads. How many? At least 43,381.

To put that number into perspective, consider that up to now scientists have charted only about 3,000 viruses. And among the known viruses found in the sewage samples, only 17 were bugs that cause human disease — things like the common cold virus, diarrhea-causing Norwalk virus and human papilloma virus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer and genital warts.

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Shots - Health Blog
7:22 am
Mon October 3, 2011

Nobelists Showed How Immune Defenses Work And Go Awry

Bruce A. Beutler was the only American winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this year.

Mosimann for Balzan

Working with grasshoppers, fruit flies, mice and human cells, the three scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine opened important windows on how all these creatures defend themselves against microbial invaders and refrain from attacking their own cells – except when they don't.

It's intricate and complicated stuff, but the two main concepts you need to know are: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

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