Health Advice



Wanted: Disease Detectives

Scott LaFee on

The COVID-19 pandemic isn't necessarily the cause, but it has revealed a current shortage in epidemiologists -- scientists trained to search for the cause of disease, identify people who are at risk and determine how to control or stop the spread.

A new report surveying health departments in 30 U.S. cities found 177 open positions for epidemiologists last year, up from 83 in 2017. (FYI: says the average salary for an epidemiologist in the U.S. is $100,805.)

Body of Knowledge

The temples of your head mark a juncture of four skull bones coming together: the frontal, parietal, temporal and splenoid. The juncture is covered by the temporal muscle, which is used during chewing. The words temple and temporal, at least in the context of anatomy, derive the Latin word tempus, meaning time. They are applied here because hair covering this portion of the head is often the first to turn gray during aging, indicating the passage of time.

Get Me That, Stat!

Some public health experts are optimistic that rubella, a contagious disease sometimes called German measles, may be eradicated in the foreseeable future. The disease normally causes a rash and illness milder than the measles, except in pregnant women, where it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or serious birth defects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization report that 89% of countries around the world now provide vaccine coverage against rubella and 48% have ended rubella transmission. Twenty-one countries, however, have yet to add the rubella vaccine to their immunization schedules.

Doc Talk

Refractory: not responding to treatment

Phobia of the Week

Atychiphobia: fear of failure

Food for Thought

According to FDA regulations, it's OK to have two or more "whole insects," 100 or more insect fragments and either four rodent hairs or two or more chunks of rodent poop per 100 grams of corn meal -- roughly the amount required for the average cord bread recipe.

Best Medicine

Visiting the psych ward, a man asked how doctors decide to institutionalize a patient.

"Well," the director said, "we fill a bathtub, then offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient, and ask him to empty the tub."

"I get it," the visitor said. "A normal person would use the bucket because it's the biggest."

"No," the director said. "A normal person would pull the plug."


"Tell your therapist that you have an addiction to bad advice, and then ask if you can see them more than once a day." -- Writer Guy Endore-Kaiser


Medical History

This week in 1980, the first transplant of a human fingernail was accomplished on a 12-year-old boy's thumb, using one of his own toenails. Dr. Guy Foucher performed the surgery in Strasbourg, France, for Christopher Kempf, who had lost the original thumbnail due to poor treatment of a hangnail.

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh, then think. A look at real science that's hard to take seriously, and even harder to ignore.

In 2005, the Ig Nobel Prize in medicine went to Gregg Miller of Oak Grove, Missouri, for inventing Neuticles -- artificial replacement testicles for dogs, which are available in three sizes and three degrees of firmness.


Q: How do your eyes change as you get older?

a) Your pupils get larger

b) Your pupils get smaller

c) Your whites get whiter

d) Your whites get grayer

A: b) your pupils get smaller. By age 60, your pupils may be roughly one-third the size they were at age 20 and take longer to adjust in size to darkness or brightness.

Fit to Be Tried

There are thousands of exercises, and you've only got one body, but that doesn't mean you can't try them all. Having strong gluteus or buttocks muscles can help prevent lower back pain, weak core muscles and hip pain. Stand in front of a countertop, holding onto it for balance. Tap one foot behind you and exhale to lift your leg off the floor, squeezing your glutes. Try lifting it 15 times, then hold it at the top and pulse 15 times. Make sure to keep both hips squared to the countertop.

Curtain Calls

In 1944, inventor Thomas Midgley Jr. accidentally strangled himself to death with the cord of a pulley-operated mechanical bed of his own design.


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