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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5:29pm

Wed November 21, 2012
Shots - Health News

With Routine Mammograms, Some Breast Cancers May Be Overtreated

Originally published on Wed November 21, 2012 6:01 pm

A mammographer prepares a screen-film mammography test for patient Alicia Maldonado at a hospital in Los Angeles.
Damian Dovarganes AP

The endless debate over routine mammograms is getting another kick from an analysis that sharply questions whether the test really does what it's supposed to.

Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, coauthor of the analysis of mammography's impact, which was just published in The New England Journal of Medicine, tell Shots that the aim was to "get down to a very basic question."

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3:19am

Fri November 9, 2012
Shots - Health News

Experimental Malaria Vaccine Disappoints, But Work Continues

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 12:59 pm

A mother dresses her baby after doctors examined him during the malaria vaccine trial at the Walter Reed Project Research Center in Kombewa in Western Kenya in October 2009.
Karel Prinsloo AP

The public health world has waited for the results for more than a year. After a half-billion dollars in R&D, would the front-runner malaria vaccine protect the top-priority targets: young infants?

The results are disappointing. The vaccine — called RTS,S for its various molecular components — reduced infants' risk of malaria by about a third.

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6:14pm

Sat November 3, 2012
Shots - Health News

Despite Antifungal Treatment, More Woes For Some Meningitis Patients

Originally published on Mon November 5, 2012 8:21 am

The news for patients who had injections of fungus-tainted steroids just keeps getting worse.

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6:12pm

Fri November 2, 2012
Shots - Health News

Home Health Care Proves Resilient In Face Of Sandy Destruction

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 9:57 pm

Barbara Fleming is evacuated from Bellevue Hospital by Victor Rivera in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in New York on Oct. 31.
Carlo Allegri Reuters/Landov

One lasting image of Superstorm Sandy will be very sick patients being evacuated from flooded hospitals. But less visible are thousands of patients who rely on visiting nurses and home health aides for care ranging from bathing and feeding to oxygen and ventilators.

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6:13pm

Wed October 31, 2012
Shots - Health News

Before Sandy Hit U.S., Storm Was A Killer In Haiti

Hurricane Sandy's tear across the Caribbean left at least 54 dead in Haiti, where many people still live in tents because of damage from the 2010 earthquake.
Thony Belizaire AFP/Getty Images

Hurricane Sandy only sideswiped Haiti during its early days. But reports so far suggest that even this indirect hit led to nearly as many deaths there as in the U.S. after the storm made landfall on the Mid-Atlantic coast.

As of Wednesday, Haiti had documented 54 deaths caused by Sandy — most in the nation's southern peninsula, which points toward Jamaica. Another 21 Haitians were still counted as missing, and many fear the death toll will rise as officials reach affected areas isolated by impassable roads and ruined bridges.

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5:12pm

Fri October 26, 2012
Shots - Health News

FDA Says Massachusetts Pharmacy Knew Of Sterility Problems For Months

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 5:40 pm

A Framingham police officer keeps watch as federal agents search the New England Compounding Center company in Framingham, Mass., on October 16.
Dominick Reuter Reuters /Landov

In a highly unusual step, the Food and Drug Administration has released a report of inspections it conduct this month of the Massachusetts pharmacy at the center of a national outbreak of fungal infections.

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4:58am

Wed October 24, 2012
Shots - Health News

Meningitis From Tainted Drugs Puts Patients, Doctors In Quandary

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 10:58 am

Matthew Spencer receives intravenous infusions of a potent antifungal drug at home twice a day for an indefinite period to treat a suspected case of fungal infection linked to a contaminated steroid drug that came from New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.
Richard Knox NPR

Two weeks after Matthew Spencer got a spinal injection for his chronic back pain, he felt "not quite right." Nothing too specific: worsening headache, nausea.

Then he saw a TV report on a recall of contaminated steroid medication used for back pain.

"I thought, well, I don't know if I had that medicine or not, but maybe I'd better go check it out," Spencer says.

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7:03am

Sat October 20, 2012
Shots - Health News

CDC: Meningitis Mold In Tainted Drug Can Incubate For Months

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 12:38 pm

Federal agents investigate the offices of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass., on Tuesday. The company's steroid medication has been linked to a deadly meningitis outbreak.
Barry Chin AP

As the caseload of fungal meningitis linked to a tainted steroid drug climbs, experts are learning more about this human-made epidemic. The signs indicate that cases could still be emerging until Thanksgiving or beyond.

The latest count is 268 cases of meningitis and three patients with fungal joint infections, spread across 16 states from New Hampshire to Texas and Idaho to Florida. Twenty-one people have died.

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12:29pm

Thu October 18, 2012
Shots - Health News

Old Drug Gets A Second Look For TB Fight

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 1:04 pm

Under the microscope, Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. The germs that cause TB have become resistant to many drugs.
Janice Haney Carr CDC

A small study offers a bit of cautious optimism about the prospects for treatment of tuberculosis, one of humankind's most ancient scourges.

This week's New England Journal of Medicine has a report showing that adding a 12-year-old antibiotic called linezolid, brand name Zyvox, to existing treatments cured nearly 90 percent of patients with a form of tuberculosis resistant to both first- and second-line antibiotics.

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8:00pm

Thu October 11, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Meningitis Outbreak Puts Doctors, Regulators In New Territory

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 5:13 pm

There's new information on the ongoing outbreak of a rare meningitis caused by a fungus that somehow got into a steroid drug. Federal officials now say the drug got injected into 14,000 patients — 1,000 more than earlier thought.

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6:33pm

Fri October 5, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Meningitis Outbreak Update: List Of Hospitals Released

The government has named 75 medical facilities that received a potentially contaminated drug suspected of infecting 47 patients with meningitis nationwide.

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5:27pm

Fri October 5, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Arabian Coronavirus: Plot Thickens But Virus Lies Low

Different types of coronaviruses can cause a simple cold or a deadly respiratory illness, such as SARS.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

It now appears that the new coronavirus found on the Arabian Peninsula is more widespread than initially thought, even though only two people are known to have gotten sick from it.

At first it seemed likely that the two known cases of illness from the new cousin-of-SARS virus may have been exposed in or near the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast.

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3:32am

Wed October 3, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

When New Diseases Emerge, Experts Are Faster On The Uptake

Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 12:37 pm

A railway worker wearing protective clothing to ward off the SARS virus controls a line of travelers as they wait to enter Beijing's West Railway Station Tuesday in 2003.
Greg Baker AP

Scientists have recently discovered three new human viruses.

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5:35pm

Tue October 2, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Vitamin D No Help For Colds

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 9:53 am

Sorry the vitamin D didn't help.
Michael Kemter iStockphoto.com

Should you take Vitamin D supplements to prevent colds and shorten the misery?

Like other theories about the benefits of vitamin D, it seems like a reasonably good idea. After all, some lab studies suggest vitamin D might enhance immunity. And as everybody knows, people are more prone to respiratory infections during winter, when they cover up and get less vitamin D-generating sunlight.

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5:56pm

Thu September 27, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Disease Detectives Catch Deadly African Virus Just As It Emerges

New viruses are popping up all over these days – Heartland virus in Missouri last month, a new virus in the same family as SARS in Saudi Arabia this month. And now, a never-before-seen hemorrhagic fever virus in central Africa.

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4:43pm

Tue September 25, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Mini-Counseling Sessions Can Curb Problem Drinking

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 10:10 pm

Just 10 to 15 minutes of counseling from primary care doctors can reduce the risk of "risky" drinking, a federal task force says.
iStockphoto.com

Brief counseling from primary care doctors reduces "risky" drinking, defined as having more than four drinks a day for men, three for women, a federal task force says.

About one in three Americans misuse alcohol, the panel says, with the vast majority falling in the "risky" category.

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6:36pm

Mon September 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Scientists Parse Genes Of Breast Cancer's Four Major Types

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 10:46 am

Scientists say a new report in the journal Nature provides a big leap in the understanding of how different types of breast cancer differ.
iStockphoto.com

Scientists have known for a while that breast cancer is really four different diseases, with subtypes among them, an insight that has helped improve treatment for some women.

But experts haven't understood much about how these four types differ. A new report, published online in the journal Nature, provides a big leap in that understanding.

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3:36am

Fri September 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Swedes Perform Pioneering Uterine Transplants; Americans Not Far Behind

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 9:39 am

A surgical team with Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, performs the first mother-to-daughter uterine transplant.
Johan Wingborg University of Gothenburg

A Swedish medical team has transplanted uteruses from two women in their 50s to their daughters. Meanwhile, Shots has learned that an Indiana group is recruiting women willing to undergo womb transplants in this country.

"We could go ahead tomorrow if we found the perfect candidate," Dr. Giuseppe Del Priore told Shots.

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4:12pm

Wed September 19, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Tiny Bubbles: Injectable Oxygen Foam Tested For Emergency Care

Bubbles of oxygen injected as a foam might someday help patients live long enough to get treatment for oxygen deprivation.
iStockphoto.com

A lot of medicine's direst emergencies come down to one problem: lack of oxygen.

Cardiologist John Kheir started thinking about that when a little girl in his care, drowning from lung hemorrhages, died before she could be hooked up to a heart-lung machine that would have kept her blood oxygenated while the damage was repaired.

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3:04am

Wed September 19, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Ebola's Other Victims: Health Care Workers

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 8:51 am

A medical worker from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention works at the laboratory where Ebola specimens from the Congo were tested at the start of the latest outbreak.
Stephen Wandera AP

The Ebola virus continues to strike people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since May, the World Health Organization has counted 72 confirmed, probable or suspected cases and 32 deaths.

As usual, a disproportionate share of those cases are health care workers — 23 of them, almost a third.

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5:30pm

Wed September 12, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Worst Of West Nile Epidemic Appears To Be Over

Technicians with the Contra Costa County Mosquito and Vector Control District spray insecticide in Brentwood, Calif., last month. Workers fogged areas of the county that had an increase in the numbers of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

The numbers for West Nile virus cases continue to rise, up 35 percent in the last week. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is confident the nation has turned the corner on its worst-ever epidemic of West Nile virus disease.

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10:24am

Tue September 11, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Two Mutations Can Transform A Swine Flu Virus

A hog gets a closeup at the Illinois State Fair in August. Officials took special precautions to make sure no livestock sick with a new strain of swine were part of the fair.
Seth Perlman AP

Flu pandemics don't happen very often. So many people might feel the relative fizzle of a flu pandemic three years ago somehow immunizes the globe against another one for awhile.

But don't relax, say the authors of a report published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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3:27am

Mon September 10, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Doctors Take Aim At Epidemic Kidney Stones With Lasers

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 5:17 am

Henry Owens, a 69-year-old retired lawyer from Cape Cod, suffered a kidney stone attack last month. His doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital used a laser to break up the stone.
Richard Knox NPR

The nation is in the midst of a kidney stone epidemic.

New research shows 1 in 10 American men and 1 in 14 women has had one. And prevalence of kidney stones has shot up in recent years.

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1:23pm

Tue September 4, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Zanzibar Shows Cholera Vaccine Can Protect Even The Unvaccinated

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 2:09 pm

A vaccine against cholera bacteria like these protected people in Zanzibar.
CDC

Cholera vaccine gives indirect protection to unvaccinated people in communities where a substantial fraction of the population gets the vaccine, a study in Africa shows.

The effect is called "herd immunity." It works because there are fewer bacteria circulating in communities where vaccination levels are relatively high.

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8:46am

Fri August 31, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Tax Breaks For Organ Donors Aren't Boosting Transplant Supply

A kidney donor is wheeled to an operating room for a transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in late June.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Seventeen states offer tax incentives to people who donate a kidney, a portion of their liver or bone marrow for transplantation. But a study finds these sweeteners aren't working.

Researchers looked at what happened in the years before and after these tax incentives were passed and found no increase in organ donation rates.

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6:24pm

Wed August 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Mysterious New 'Heartland Virus' Discovered In Missouri

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:42 am

Two men from northwestern Missouri became ill after tick bites infected them with a previously unknown virus.
iStockphoto.com

Two Missouri farmers have been infected with a brand-new tick-borne virus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling the Heartland virus.

The men recovered but suffered serious illness that required hospital care and weeks of convalescence. Symptoms included fever, severe fatigue, headache and nausea. Their platelet counts plummeted, but even though platelets are necessary for blood clotting, the men didn't suffer abnormal bleeding.

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3:00pm

Wed August 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

With West Nile On The Rise, We Answer Your Questions

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:45 am

A Beechcraft airplane sprays insecticide over Dallas early Monday morning to curb the spread of West Nile virus.
LM Otero AP

This year is on track to be the worst ever for West Nile virus in the United States. Here are the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 1,590 reported cases, nearly 500 more than a week ago for a rise of 44 percent.
  • 889 cases, or 56 percent, involve severe neurological disease.
  • 66 deaths, compared to 41 last week.
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10:18am

Wed August 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

When Flu Hits, Kids With Neurological Problems Are Vulnerable

People wait in line at the Durham County Health Department for the H1N1 flu vaccination in Durham, N.C., in November 2009.
Gerry Broome AP

Flu is most deadly for children with neurologic problems and disorders, an analysis of swine flu fatalities finds.

The results come from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers who looked at childhood fatalities during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, when there were five times the usual number of deaths.

In all, 43 percent of the deaths occurred in children who had neurologic diseases, such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy, or developmental disorders.

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9:42am

Tue August 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Oldest Americans Living Longer, And Are Fitter And Richer, Too

The latest data paint a brighter picture of aging in America.
Lisa F. Young iStockphoto.com

America's oldest citizens are generally getting healthier, living longer and doing better financially. But there's lots of room for improvement.

That's the take-home from an exhaustive picture of Americans over 65 put together by the federal government and released last week during the summer doldrums.

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4:14pm

Fri August 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

WHO Calls For Emergency Stockpile Of Cholera Vaccine

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 5:11 pm

Thousands of doses of cholera vaccine sit in a refrigerated trailer in a United Nations compound in Saint-Marc, Haiti, in March. After some delays, a vaccination project proved successful.
John Poole NPR

A month ago the results of a successful cholera vaccine project in Haiti became available. Now the World Health Organization is calling for the establishment of a global stockpile of the vaccine to respond to outbreaks like Haiti's.

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