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.

Pages

Shots - Health News
10:39 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Healthful Living May Lengthen Telomeres And Lifespans

Originally published on Tue September 17, 2013 1:22 pm

Scientists claim they have evidence that explains why lifestyle changes known to be good for you — low-fat diets, exercise, reducing stress — can lengthen your life.

Based on a small, exploratory study, researchers say these good habits work by preventing chromosomes in our cells from unraveling. Basically, they assert that healthy living can reverse the effects of aging at a genetic level.

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Shots - Health News
6:20 am
Sun September 15, 2013

Deadly Amoeba Found For First Time In Municipal Water Supply

Kali Hardig, 12, was released from a hospital in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 11 after surviving a brain infection caused by amoebas.
Danny Johnston Associated Press

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 8:32 am

A 4-year-old child who died of a rare brain infection in early August has led Louisiana health officials to discover that the cause is lurking in the water pipes of St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans.

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Shots - Health News
6:52 am
Wed September 11, 2013

Fast Tests For Drug Resistance Bolster Malaria Fight

A Cambodian boy gets tested for malaria at a clinic along the Thai-Cambodian border in 2010. Three strains of drug-resistant malaria have emerged from this region over the past 50 years.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 9:15 am

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Shots - Health News
1:03 am
Sun September 1, 2013

The Case For Clearing More Arteries During Heart Attacks

There's been great progress in treating heart disease, but it remains the top killer in the U.S.
iStockphoto.com

An aggressive approach to preventing heart attacks could be the next big thing in the long battle against this leading cause of death.

A British study presented Sunday in Amsterdam finds that doctors can reduce future heart attacks and cardiac deaths by opening up multiple clogged coronary arteries while they're fixing the artery that's causing a heart attack in progress.

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Shots - Health News
3:05 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Illicit Drugs And Mental Illness Take A Huge Global Toll

A homeless man smokes crack in the Barrio Triste neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia.
Raul Arboleda AFP/Getty Images

Mental disorders and substance abuse are the leading causes of nonfatal illness on the planet, according to an ambitious analysis of data from around the world.

A companion report, the first of its kind, documents the global impact of four illicit drugs: heroin and other opiates, amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis. It calls illegal drugs "an important contributor to the global burden of disease."

The two papers are being published by The Lancet as part of a continuing project called the Global Burden of Disease.

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Shots - Health News
4:03 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

Vaccinating Babies For Rotavirus Protects The Whole Family

An artistic illustration of the rotavirus.
petersimoncik iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 2:40 pm

A 7-year-old vaccine that has drastically cut intestinal infections in infants is benefiting the rest of America, too.

A study published Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that vaccinating infants against rotavirus has also caused a striking decline in serious infections among older children and adults who didn't get vaccinated.

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Shots - Health News
10:46 am
Tue August 27, 2013

More Stroke Patients Now Get Clot-Busting Drug

A brain scan followed by quick drug treatment in the right patients can stop a stroke in its tracks.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed August 28, 2013 10:14 am

It's been a long and often controversial road, but U.S. doctors are finally embracing a drug that can halt strokes and prevent disabling brain damage.

An analysis of more than 1 million stroke patients shows that use of the 17-year-old drug, called alteplase (brand-name Activase), nearly doubled between 2003 and 2011.

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Shots - Health News
3:52 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Lyme Disease Far More Common Than Previously Known

Black-legged ticks like this can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
CDC

Originally published on Mon August 19, 2013 4:58 pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 300,000 Americans are getting Lyme disease every year, and the toll is growing.

"It confirms what we've thought for a long time: This is a large problem," Dr. Paul Mead tells Shots. "The bottom line is that by defining how big the problem is we make it easier for everyone to figure out what kind of resources we have to use to address it."

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Shots - Health News
2:12 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Nurse Charged With Assisting In Her Father's Death

Barbara Mancini with her father, Joe Yourshaw.
Barbara Mancini via Compassion & Choices

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 4:22 pm

A Philadelphia nurse has been charged with assisted suicide for allegedly providing her 93-year-old father with a lethal dose of morphine.

Authorities say Barbara Mancini, 57, told a hospice nurse and a police officer on Feb. 7 that she provided a vial of morphine to her father, Joe Yourshaw, to hasten his death.

Mancini and her attorneys acknowledge she handed the medication to her father, but maintain she never said she intended to help him end his life and was only trying to help her father ease his pain — an act they say is legally protected, even if it causes death.

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Shots - Health News
3:49 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Panel Urges Lung Cancer Screening For Millions Of Americans

Some images of lung cancer are clear cut. But in many others, a nodule on the screen turns out not to be cancer at all.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu August 22, 2013 12:24 pm

A federal task force is planning to recommend that millions of smokers and former smokers get a CT scan annually to look for early signs of lung cancer.

The 16-member US Preventive Services Task Force gives that lung cancer screening test a grade of B, which puts it on the same level as mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 74.

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Shots - Health News
12:58 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

HPV Vaccination Might Help Reduce Risk Of Throat Cancers

Vaccines against the HPV virus are already used to prevent cervical and anal cancer.
Harry Cabluck AP

Originally published on Tue July 23, 2013 2:29 pm

A study of women in Costa Rica is raising hope that getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, could lower the risk of throat cancers.

The research doesn't show that. It would take a much bigger and longer study to do that – if such a study could ethically be done at all.

What this study does show is that among the nearly 6,000 women in the study, those who got vaccinated against two strains of the virus had 93 percent fewer HPV throat infections four years later.

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Shots - Health News
3:11 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

For A Long And Healthy Life, It Matters Where You Live

It's not just living longer that matters. It's living healthier longer.
iStockphoto.com

It's not just how long you live that matters. It's healthy life expectancy – the additional years of good health you can expect once you hit 65.

And by that measure, a new analysis shows it makes a lot of difference where Americans live.

Hawaiians are lucky in more than their idyllic weather and gorgeous scenery. Seniors there can expect a little more than 16 years of healthy life after 65. Women in Hawaii can expect more than 17 years.

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Shots - Health News
1:17 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Tuberculosis Outbreak Shakes Wisconsin City

Dale Hippensteel, manages the Sheboygan County health department.
Jeffrey Phelps For NPR

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 5:45 am

Looking crisp and official in his khaki-colored sheriff's department polo shirt, Steve Steinhardt says Sheboygan, Wis., is a pretty good place to be a director of emergency services.

"Nothing bad happens here," he says, knocking on wood. Unless, that is, you count the tuberculosis outbreak that struck the orderly Midwestern city of 50,000 this spring and summer.

"I never expected TB to be one of the bigger emergencies I'd face when I got into this field," Steinhardt says.

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Shots - Health News
7:04 am
Thu June 20, 2013

Outbreak In Saudi Arabia Echoes SARS Epidemic 10 Years Ago

Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf on Sunday. In eastern Saudi Arabia, where outbreaks of the MERS virus have been concentrated, people have resumed their habits of shaking hands and kissing.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

A detailed analysis of how the disease called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome spread through four Saudi Arabian hospitals this spring reveals disturbing similarities to the SARS pandemic that terrified the world a decade ago.

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Shots - Health News
1:46 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Vaccine Against HPV Has Cut Infections In Teenage Girls

A 13-year-old girl gets an HPV vaccination from Judith Schaechter, a pediatrician at the University of Miami, in 2011.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 8:18 pm

A vaccine against human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection and the cause of almost all cervical cancer — is dramatically reducing the prevalence of HPV in teenage girls.

The first vaccine against HPV, Merck's Gardasil, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Cerverix, from GlaxoSmithKline, was approved in 2009.

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Shots - Health News
2:31 pm
Mon June 10, 2013

Triple Threat: Middle East Respiratory Virus And 2 Bird Flus

Men outside a hospital in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, wear surgical masks as a precaution against infection with a coronavirus.
Stringer Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 6:11 am

The World Health Organization is warning health care workers everywhere to suspect a disease called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, whenever they see a case of unexplained pneumonia.

Monday's warning comes at the end of a six-day WHO investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred. Sixty percent of those people with known infections died.

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Shots - Health News
12:19 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Obama Administration Seeks To Ease Approvals For Antibiotics

These staph bacteria are resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic that is one of the last lines of defense.
Janice Haney Carr CDC

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 3:15 pm

Every day in hospitals all over America, thousands of patients die of infections that used to be curable. But the antibiotics used to treat them aren't working anymore.

It's called drug resistance, and it's largely a consequence of antibiotics overuse. The more germs are exposed to antibiotics, the faster they mutate to evade being vanquished.

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Shots - Health News
1:34 am
Mon June 3, 2013

A Boston Family's Struggle With TB Reveals A Stubborn Foe

Michelle Williams (center) and two daughters visit the grave of her mother, Judy Williams, at Fairview Cemetery in Hyde Park, Mass., on May 11. Judy died in 2011.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 7:10 am

Thanks to gold-standard tuberculosis treatment and prevention programs, cases of TB in the United States have declined every year for the past two decades — to the lowest level ever.

But TB's course through the Williams family in Boston shows that no nation can afford to relax its efforts to find, treat and prevent TB. It's just too sneaky and stubborn an adversary.

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Shots - Health News
12:15 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Young Women With Breast Cancer Opting For Mastectomy

Toborcia Bedgood performs a mammogram to screen for breast cancer at the Elizabeth Center for Cancer Detection in Los Angeles in 2010.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Most women diagnosed with breast cancer when they're 40 or younger are choosing mastectomy rather than more limited and breast-conserving lumpectomy plus radiation, a study of women in Massachusetts finds.

Moreover, most of those choosing mastectomy elect to have the other, noncancerous breast removed, too.

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Shots - Health News
12:06 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Middle East Virus Spreads Between Hospitalized Patients

The new coronavirus has a crown of tentacles on its surface when viewed under the microscope.
NIAID/RML

It's been eight months since a Saudi Arabian doctor described a previously unknown virus related to SARS. And for most of that time only germ geeks paid much attention.

But in the past few days the new virus — which some would like to call MERS-CoV, for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus — has been making up for lost time.

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Shots - Health News
12:49 am
Wed May 8, 2013

Officials Prepare For Another Flu Pandemic — Just In Case

Scientists in the U.S. are growing the H7N9 virus in the laboratory to help with vaccine development.
James Gathany CDC/Douglas E. Jordan

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 9:43 am

There's been a buzz of activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta since scientists got their first samples of a new bird flu virus from China four weeks ago.

Already they've prepared "seed strains" of the virus, called H7N9, and distributed them to vaccine manufacturers so the companies can grow them up and make them into experimental flu vaccine.

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Shots - Health News
1:03 am
Thu May 2, 2013

Recovery Begins For Mother, Daughter Injured In Boston

Celeste Corcoran is transported to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on April 28.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Fri May 3, 2013 2:19 pm

The number of Boston bombing victims still in the hospital dropped to 19 as of Wednesday evening. The great majority have gone home or to a rehab facility.

That's what has happened with Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother-daughter pair who ended up in the same hospital room after being struck down by the first marathon bomb blast.

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Shots - Health News
1:17 am
Wed May 1, 2013

Mother And Daughter Injured In Boston Bombing Face New Future

Celeste Corcoran and her daughter, Sydney, were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Ellen Webber for NPR

Originally published on Thu May 2, 2013 9:59 am

Forty-seven-year-old Celeste Corcoran is propped up in her hospital bed. In a nearby window is a forest of blooming white orchids from well-wishers. On the opposite wall, a big banner proclaims "Corcoran Strong."

She's recalling how thrilled she was to be near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, waiting for her sister Carmen Accabo to run by. "I just remember standing there, wanting to be as close as I could to catch her," Corcoran says. "I really just needed to see her face."

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Shots - Health News
3:42 am
Fri April 19, 2013

With Bird Flu, 'Right Now, Anything Is Possible'

A health worker collects pigeons from a trap at People's Square in Shanghai, China, earlier this month. So far, workers have tested more than 48,000 animals for the H7N9 flu virus.
ChinaFotoPress Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 19, 2013 7:27 pm

An international dream team of flu experts assembled in China today.

Underscoring the urgency that public health agencies feel about the emergence of a new kind of bird flu, the team is headed by Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization's top influenza scientist.

Before he left Geneva, Fukuda explained the wide-open nature of the investigation in an interview with NPR.

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Explosions At Boston Marathon
6:23 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Boston Doctors Compare Marathon Bomb Injuries To War Wounds

Medical personnel work outside the medical tent in the aftermath of two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. At area hospitals, doctors say they were confronted with the kinds of injuries U.S. troops get in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 9:26 am

Boston hospitals always staff up their emergency rooms on Marathon Day to care for runners with cramps, dehydration and the occasional heart attack.

But Monday, those hospitals suddenly found themselves with more than 100 traumatized patients — many of them with the kinds of injuries seen more often on a battlefield than a marathon.

Like most big-city hospitals these days, Tufts Medical Center runs regular disaster drills, featuring simulated patients smeared with fake blood.

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Shots - Health News
2:57 am
Sun April 14, 2013

Scientists Race To Stay Ahead Of New Bird Flu Virus

Workers prepare an H7N9 virus detection kit at the Center for Disease Control in Beijing on April 3.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 7:01 am

A precious package arrived at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last Thursday afternoon.

Inside, packed in dry ice to keep it frozen, was a vial containing millions of viruses derived from a 35-year-old Chinese housewife who died last Tuesday of respiratory and kidney failure.

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Shots - Health News
4:04 pm
Fri April 5, 2013

Human Cases Of Bird Flu In China Draw Scrutiny

A cockerel walks on a bridge in a residential area of Beijing. The Chinese are beginning to destroy thousands of birds in an effort to stamp out the presumed source of H7N9 infection.
Wang Zhao AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 8, 2013 4:09 pm

Sixteen cases of a new flu around Shanghai have touched off a major effort to determine what kind of threat this new bug might be.

The victims range in age from 4 to 87 years old. Six have died. It is a tragedy for them and their families, but is it a global crisis?

To understand why so few cases are generating so much concern, the first thing to know is that no flu virus like this one — called H7N9 — has ever been known to infect humans before.

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Business
3:28 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Novartis Ruling Reverberates Past India's Borders

India's Supreme Court says drug maker Novartis can't hold onto its patent for the pricey cancer drug Gleevec simply by tweaking its chemical formula. That means generic drug makers can keep making a form of the drug at a tenth of Novartis's price — for the Indian market and for other low- and middle-income markets. Consumer advocates call it a major advance for access to generic drugs. Novartis and drug industry allies say it will chill companies' willingness to produce innovative products.

Shots - Health News
1:21 am
Mon April 1, 2013

As Stroke Risk Rises Among Younger Adults, So Does Early Death

When Melissa McCann (left) suffered a stroke in 2007, her twin sister, Terry Blanchard, helped her make a full recovery. McCann is now back to work as a flight nurse with Life Flight at the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
David Wright/Redux Pictures for NPR

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 6:50 am

Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger.

In one recent 10-year period, the rate of strokes in Americans younger than 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in 5 strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old — up from 1 in 8 in the mid-1990s.

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Shots - Health News
10:39 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Sorting Out The Mammogram Debate: Who Should Get Screened When?

A woman gets a mammogram in Putanges, France.
Mychele Daniau AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 2:21 pm

Mammography outcomes from nearly a million U.S. women suggest which ones under 50 would stand the greatest chance of benefiting from regular screening: those with very dense breasts.

That's been a bone of contention ever since a federal task force declared nearly four years ago that women younger than 50 shouldn't routinely get the test.

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