Health News Florida

Since 2006, Health News Florida has provided in-depth journalism on health policy issues in our state.

Health News Florida is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at

Courtesy of Purdue University

If you don't already hate Tropical Storm Debby, just wait. 

All the standing water from Debby will soon spawn pesky, disease-carrying mosquitoes,according to Steve Huard, Public Information Officer with Hillsborough County Health Department.

"So the community really needs to kind of get ready and think about the risks associated with all the mosquitoes that will be out and about and make sure they have their mosquito repellent with DEET in it and just be ready for the next onslaught," Huard said. 

He says the mosquitoes should be here in a couple of days. 

Dr. Ruben Quintero, who pioneered a surgery to correct twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and once directed USF's Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is now on the University of Miami team making international headlines for this groundbreaking procedure.

Flickr Creative Commons/ Jobs with Justice

Florida has the third-highest total number of deaths resulting from the lack of health care coverage. That's according to a new report comparing all 50 states by Families USA, a non-profit advocacy group.

And Florida doesn't fare much better on a per capita basis, either.

By that measure, Florida had the sixth-worst rate of uninsured people dying, only slightly better than much-poorer West Virginia.

The study says that in 2010, almost 2,300 Floridians between the ages of 25 and 64 died from the lack of care.

It's being called the "decision of the century."

Anytime between now and the end of June, the Supreme Court will rule whether the health care law championed by President Barack Obama will be tossed out as an unconstitutional. 

The state of Florida is leading the lawsuit, which says the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. That mandate would require almost all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties. 

2 Reasons Why NYC Ban on Big Sodas Could Get Dumped

Jun 15, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban restaurants, movie theaters, and sports arenas from serving sugary drinks that are larger than 16 oz.

The goal is to reduce obesity related health problems in a city that spends billions of dollars dealing with these issues, but the ban  is meeting resistance from both businesses and from the public.

There are a few reasons why it could get dumped.

Seventeen-year-old Leah Culkar was at a neighbor's house when she was badly burned 11 years ago.

"It was the fourth of July. We were shooting off fireworks," Culkar says.

"It was a bottle rocket. The bottle tipped over. One of the fire works landed right in my lap and I had 3rd, 2nd, and 1st degree burns."  

3 Reasons Women Doctors Make Less Than Men

Jun 12, 2012

Female doctors/researchers make $12,000 less per year than their male counterparts, according to a new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Men reported making slightly over $200,000 a year, while women reported $168,000.

Reuters Health says that even though the wage disparity between men and women is nothing new, there may be several reasons why the difference exists for doctors.

Schools Pass on "Pink Slime" Beef

Jun 12, 2012

The beef filler nicknamed “pink slime” in an article by the New York Times, has been served for decades in schools across the country.

Recently, The Department of Agriculture announced it will no longer be on the menu in several states.

Public schools in only three states - Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota - will continue to serve it.

Lean finely textured beef, the official name of "pink slime," is a meat byproduct additive that is made by heating the product and then treating it with a puff of ammonia to kill bacteria. The result is an inexpensive and leaner filler product.

If you're stung by a jellyfish or Portuguese man-o-war, how do you treat the pain?

Some emergency room docs at the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center pored over all the scientific papers they could find to come up with answers based on evidence instead of intuition.

Those cups of coffee that you drink every day to keep alert appear to have an extra perk – especially if you’re an older adult.  A recent study monitoring the memory and thinking processes of people older than 65 found that all those with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up.  Moreover, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals.

More than twice as many people have been diagnosed with whooping cough in Hillsborough County so far this year than in all of last year, according to the county health department.

Health officials say the outbreak started with several large families becoming infected and spreading it to the community. 

Whooping cough, or pertussis, gets its name from the whooping sound made when a person affected by the illness, coughs.

Melane Byrd says it was 8-years ago that her mother Doris Sherer started showing the signs of Alzheimer's Disease.

"It sneaks up on you. Yes it sneaks up on you. I didn't realize what was happening," Sherer says.

Because of her impeccable dress and her gift for gab, the former university pageant queen fooled most people.

Byrd explains, "Of course Miss Auburn here has such great social skills, it's not apparent to everybody."

However, the 87- year old's illness was apparent to Byrd.

"She would forget things like, the most frightening thing was that mother was taking her medicine several times a day."

Tampa General Hospital President/CEO To Retire

May 29, 2012

 Ron Hytoff, 66, president and chief executive officer of Tampa General Hospital, today announced his retirement.

David A. Straz, Jr., chairman of the Florida Health Sciences Center, the governing body of the hospital, announced a nationwide search for a new CEO would begin immediately. He indicated internal candidates also would be considered.

Hospital officials say Hytoff will remain as president and CEO during the transition, but that he expected to step down by June 2013 at the latest.

Michael Rudi, 17, lay collapsed against the wall of his school's nurses office, unable to breathe. Deltona High school's nurse stood over him but refused to give him an inhaler, according to WKMG Channel 6 News.

That's because school officials said they had no record of Rudi's parent's signature on file.

"It's like something out of a horror film. The person just sits there and watches you die," Rudi said.

Yet another reason to eat healthy and exercise.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that by dropping a few pounds, a woman can greatly lower her chance of getting breast cancer.

The study found that  women who lost a moderate amount of weight through diet and exercise saw their estrogen and other hormones associated with breast cancer drop as well.

At least 30 students, staff and faculty members on the USF Tampa Campus were told by the Hillsborough County Health Department they could be at risk for contracting tuberculosis. That's after a student was recently treated for the disease. That student is no longer considered to be a health risk to others.

Tuberculosis usually affects a person's lungs but can affect other parts of the body causing serious illness. It's an airborne disease, spread through coughing and sneezing. 

A new study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that between 1998 and 2008, the percentage of adolescents with pre-diabetes or diabetes increased from 9% to 23%. 

Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are abnormally high, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. 

Researchers took information from 3, 383 teens who participated in a government survey. They were interviewed and given a physical exam. One third of the participants were found to be overweight or obese. 



Laurie, a Tampa resident, says she always knew she wanted to join the military. When she was young she looked up to her uncle who was a drill sergeant in the army. After high school, she joined the air force.

"I was an air force mechanic. There aren't many women in that career field." 

In fact, Laurie says in her unit she was the only one. She enjoyed hanging out and playing cards with her fellow soldiers until one day something went terribly wrong.

An ambitious study designed to detect Alzheimer's Disease before symptoms even show is already facing it's first big obstacle- a lack of volunteer patients.

 It's the largest clinical study ever done on the disease. Nearly 500 patients would  undergo MRI scans, PET scans and spinal taps, CBS News reports, in hopes of developing the first test to find the disease before a potential patient even knows there is a problem.

A 44-year old nursing home employee, Fannie McGee, was arrested after Hillsborough County Deputies say she was seen smacking an 89-year old woman twice on the side of her face.

Deputies say the victim suffers from dementia and lives at Superior Residences Home in Brandon where McGee works.

McGee is facing felony charges of battery on the elderly.