Stories about health and wellness in the KVNF listening area.

Take a look at the latest obesity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and you can see that the country's obesity epidemic is far from over.

Even in Colorado, the state with the lowest rate, 21.3 percent of its population is obese. Arkansas tops the list with 35.9 percent.

tissue box, sick, illness, cold

Delta County is seeing a spike in pertussis, also known as whooping cough, cases. The highly contagious respiratory disease causes uncontrollable coughing and can make it difficult for people to breathe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says whooping cough can be fatal, especially to young children under a year old.

Between July and August, Delta County saw seven confirmed cases of the disease.

Bonnie Koehler, the deputy director of the county health department, says this uptick in cases is concerning.

Don't kiss your chickens!

That's the message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is blaming a salmonella outbreak on backyard chicken owners being overly affectionate with their flocks.

The CDC says more than 180 people have come down with salmonella across the U.S. this year from contact with backyard poultry. Thirty-three of them became so sick they required hospitalization.

A recent recommendation from doctors in the United Kingdom raised eyebrows in the United States: The British National Health Service says healthy women with straightforward pregnancies are better off staying out of the hospital to deliver their babies.

That's heresy, obstetrician Dr. Neel Shah first thought. In the United States, 99 percent of babies are born in hospitals.

After nearly 30 years, the Obama administration wants to modernize the rules nursing homes must follow to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid payments.

The hundreds of pages of proposed changes cover everything from meal times to use of antipsychotic drugs to staffing. Some are required by the Affordable Care Act and other recent federal laws, as well as the president's executive order directing agencies to simplify regulations and minimize the costs of compliance.

Health officials, confronted with a shocking increase in heroin abuse, are developing a clearer picture of who is becoming addicted to this drug and why. The results may surprise you.

Amy Roegler and her husband, Octavio Herrera, live with their young kids, Jake and Alyssa, in Los Angeles. When it comes to pro baseball, they're all Dodgers fans. And Jake loved balls even as a baby, Octavio says.

"We have a picture of him as a 3-month-old with a little Dodger jersey and a glove," Octavio says. "So he was definitely going to be introduced to sports early, and he took to it right away." Today 10-year-old Jake is on his baseball league's All-Star team.

People who buy medical marijuana products might not be getting what they paid for, a study finds. And evidence remains elusive on benefits for most medical conditions, even though almost half the states have legalized medical marijuana.

Mesa County Health Department

May was the wettest month on record, according to federal data. Colorado also saw its fair share of precipitation last month. 

This increased moisture could mean more mosquitoes and this has health officials concerned. 

The insects reproduce in standing water so when it rains a lot in can create ideal breeding habitat for them. 

Thomas Orr, a regional epidemiologist at the Mesa County Health Department, says more mosquitoes could lead to more cases of West Nile.

The states that set up their own insurance marketplaces have nothing to lose in King v. Burwell, the big Supreme Court case that will be decided by the end of June. But that doesn't mean those states are breathing easy.

With varying degrees of difficulty, all of the state-based exchanges are struggling to figure out how to become financially self-sufficient as the spigot of federal start-up money shuts off.

Imagine that you're a judge, and you're asked to decide the case brought by Mary and Dave Wildman.

Back in 1997, Mary took the couple's 1-year-old son, Nicholas, to the doctor for the combination vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. Right after the MMR shot, Mary says, Nicholas started crying uncontrollably.

"This was unbelievable screaming," she says.

Mary and her mom started driving Nicholas back to their home in Evans City, Pa.

African-American women can be at risk of heart disease even if they don't have metabolic syndrome, a study finds.

That's a problem, because the current thinking is that metabolic syndrome — defined as high triglycerides, bad cholesterol, abdominal fat, high blood pressure and impaired glucose metabolism — is the big risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

The picture with women appears to be a lot more complicated, especially when you compare women in different racial or ethnic groups.

There's no getting around the strangeness of a map that shows the most distinctive cause of death in each of our 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In Texas, it's tuberculosis. In Maine, it's the flu. And in Nevada, it's the ominous "legal intervention."

But what does it mean to label a cause of death distinctive?

Keeping food out of sight could be a way to keep it out of your mouth. That's the hunch of Charles Emery, a psychologist at Ohio State University, anyway. His latest research suggests that how food is set up around the house could be influencing how much people eat and, ultimately, how heavy they might be.

There are a lot of factors that scientists say explain obesity — defined as a body-mass index over 30 — from genetics to lifestyle changes to socio-economic status.

Back in the 1960s, the U.S. started vaccinating kids for measles. As expected, children stopped getting measles.

But something else happened.

Childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted. Even deaths from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were cut by half.

Scientists saw the same phenomenon when the vaccine came to England and parts of Europe. And they see it today when developing countries introduce the vaccine.

For the first time in 90 years, U.S. health officials say they have diagnosed a case of the plague that may have spread in the air from one person to another. Don't be alarmed — the plague these days is treatable with antibiotics and is exceptionally rare (just 10 cases were reported nationwide in 2014).

And if the plague has become mostly a curiosity in the United States, this case is more curious than most.

Western Colorado AIDS  Project (WESTCAP) provides services to HIV positive clients and at-risk individuals in 22 counties on the Western Slope. Jeff Basinger and CJ Tobe of WESTCAP share information about new treatments for those who are HIV+ and talk about resources  for the LGBT community in Western Colorado.   

Federal health officials Monday changed the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time since 1962, cutting by almost half the maximum amount of fluoride that should be added to drinking supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommended 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water instead of the long-standing range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

Over the past three weeks, people have been tumbling into emergency rooms across the country, seriously ill after using a synthetic drug known as K2 or spice.

Ali Lightfoot talks about meth addiction and treatment with Pam Bliss, volunteer coordinator and sober events planner for Drug Free Delta County, and to Misty, a recovering meth addict who is soon to be a graduate of the program. 

While a cure for cancer remains elusive, we already know how to keep many cases of the disease from developing in the first place.

People can reduce cancer risks by keeping a healthful weight and avoiding cigarettes.

But smoking, obesity and other major cancer risk factors remain common, and they still vary widely across the country.

A national survey confirms earlier indications that e-cigarettes are now more popular among teenage students than traditional cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The findings prompted strong warnings from Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about the effects of any form of nicotine on young people.

"We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age," Frieden said.

Dana Lam was insured under her parent's health plan until the end of 2014, thanks to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to stay on family health insurance until they turn 26.

The arrangement worked out well until she needed treatment for depression. Lam knew that if she used her parents' health plan to see a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, her visit would show up on their insurance statements.

She wasn't ready to talk to them about her mental health issues. "I was just so afraid of having that conversation with them," she says.

It's not the salt shakers on our tables that explain why Americans consume way too much sodium. It's the processed foods we buy in grocery stores.

Scientists have found some unexpected clues that could help explain why 51 percent of the babies born in the United States are male.

It's been a mystery why that ratio isn't 50:50, since that's what basic biology would predict. But scientists have noticed a tilted sex ratio at birth since the 17th century.

The widely held assumption is that this imbalance starts at the very moment of conception — that more males are conceived than females.

Frances Stevens could have been a contender. She was training to be a Golden Gloves boxer and working as a magazine publisher in 1997 when 1,000 copies of the latest issue arrived at her San Francisco office.

"I'd just turned 30. I was an athlete. I had a job that I loved, a life that I loved," she recalls. "And in a second my life changed."

Got a high-deductible health plan? The kind that doesn't pay most medical bills until they exceed several thousand dollars? You're a foot soldier who's been drafted in the war against high health costs.

Recreational marijuana has been legalized in four states, but that doesn't mean it's a tested consumer product. Some of those potent buds are covered in fungus while others contain traces of butane, according to an analysis of marijuana in Colorado.

It's easy to get put on statins, and it can be surprisingly hard to get off them. That's true even for people who are terminally ill and might have bigger concerns than reducing their cardiovascular risk.

People approaching the end of life who did stop statins were not more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who kept taking the drugs, according to researchers who tested the idea.

Delta County Memorial Hospital, Urgent Care
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

For the past three years, Delta County Memorial Hospital has been participating in a pilot program that's allowed it to collect more money from Medicaid and Medicare for its services. 

The program will sunset in 2017, but the hospital doesn't want to that to happen. That's why it's lobbying federal lawmakers to support two bills that would extend it.  

Additionally, the hospital wants to see if it can change its classification in effect making those larger payments permanent, but to do that it also needs federal support.