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How much is a fast track for the Food and Drug Administration review of a new drug worth? Try $125 million.

In an auction, Gilead Sciences, a maker of HIV and hepatitis medicines, just bought a coupon good for the accelerated review of a drug of the company's choice from Knight Therapeutics, a Canadian company.

The priority review voucher entitles Gilead to move a drug of its choice through the FDA four months faster than the normal track.

What does it mean to have a toilet?

We in the West don't spend much time pondering that question (on or off the toilet).

"It's something that's always in the background that keeps everything else moving," says Sam Drabble of Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), a London-based nonprofit. "It allows us to live very busy lives, and it's not something we ever need to think about."

Jack Sim's career is in the toilet — literally.

The 57-year-old Singaporean made his fortune in the construction industry when he was in his 40s. And he wanted to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

Sim tried his hand at saving historic buildings and answering phone calls from people in distress, but neither felt right. "I was looking for something that was neglected and able to serve large number of people," he says.

Today is a day to celebrate the wonders of the toilet — and to make a commitment to bringing toilets to all those in need. In case you're wondering, there are 2.5 billion people who are toiletless.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The headlines circulating on the Web Tuesday may have given you pause: "India's First Ebola Patient Has Been Quarantined," Time Magazine wrote on its website. "Man tests positive for Ebola, kept under isolation," Press Trust of India declared.

But those headlines don't tell the full story.

What if, the next time you went to the doctor, instead of a prescription for blood thinners you got one for cash? What if you walked out the door with $1,000 in your pocket instead of paying a copay?

The federal agency that oversees many American healthcare workers volunteering in Ebola-stricken regions of West Africa says there's been a significant decline in the number of people who are willing to go. International aid groups attribute that drop to the mandatory quarantine rules implemented by New York and New Jersey last month.

For more than two decades, Lucy Barh has been helping women deliver babies. Even during Liberia's violent civil war, when other midwives left, Barh stuck around.

But none of this prepared her for a patient she saw a few months ago.

"I was on duty that day when the patient came in," says Barh, at the headquarters of the Liberian Midwives' Association in Monrovia. "We did the examination. She was not in labor."

Measles might be preparing for a comeback tour.

Unlike Ebola, measles easily leaps between people. Virus-filled droplets linger, floating in the air or coating a coffee table for up to two hours after a contagious person coughs or sneezes. If you're susceptible to the disease and you breathe that air or touch a contaminated surface and then rub your eyes, you're screwed. Measles infects 90 percent of those who are not immune.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

On a map, a border is a solid black line. On the ground, it can feel like a fiction. I'm standing on the edge of a shallow stream through the forest that separates two West African countries: Ivory Coast and Liberia. Here there is no fence. No sign. No border guard to prevent my crossing.

Babies around the world face a lot of risks to their health: pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, to name a few.

But it turns out that no single infectious disease takes a greater toll than the simple fact of being born premature.

Premature birth is now the single largest cause of death among babies and young children. Every year, 1.09 million children under age 5 die due to health complications that stem from being born before week 37 of pregnancy (a 40-week pregnancy is considered full-term).

He was sitting in a clinic. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting for his grandparents' HIV medicine.

Sizwe Nzima was a high school student in Cape Town, South Africa, when he would pick up the medicine for his HIV-positive grandparents, who had difficulty traveling to the clinic themselves. Because of the long lines, Nzima usually waited hours and often made multiple trips to the clinic before and after school. He tried to bribe the pharmacists to get the medication sooner. But it didn't work.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Last week, 13 women died in India after undergoing sterilization procedures in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, possibly because of tainted pills administered after the surgery. This tragedy has cast a negative light on sterilization.

When word spread through Sierra Leone's capital that Dr. Martin Salia had died this morning, a throng of patients and colleagues rushed to the gate of one of the hospitals where he had worked to find out if it was really true.

"People were crying, people were wailing, they were shouting. Some of the staff who came around were rolling on the ground," says Leonard Gbloh, administrator of Freetown's Kissy United Methodist Hospital, who witnessed the scene. "We're in a state of shock. We are really mourning the death of a great hero."

It began with a little boy.

A 4-year-old who was feeling sick. His family sent him to a neighboring village called Royail, where his grandmother lives, so she could care for him.

In this tiny place, surrounded by tall grass and palm trees, the grandmother lived in a house on a dirt road. Her name was Sinnah Turay, but people refer to her as "the mami-back" — that's what some folks in Sierra Leone call a grandmother.

As part of UNMEER, WHO — along with GoL, GoSL and NGOS like IMC and MSF — has been fighting the EVD crisis, making sure doctors correctly put on PPEs according to CDC guidelines. Meanwhile WFP is sending in food and DETT from JFC-UA are training health workers who will staff pending ETUs in Liberia.

Did you guess that I was writing about the Ebola outbreak?

If it was a snake, it would have bitten us.

The secret to stopping a deadly stomach virus may be sitting right there in our guts, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science. Or more specifically, the treatment is in our microbiome — the trillions of bacteria that inconspicuously hang out in the GI tracts.

Immunologists at Georgia State University found that a tiny piece of gut bacteria can prevent and cure a rotavirus infection in mice.

"This is not just one case," says Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's a cluster." He's talking about the Ebola situation in Mali, where two people have likely died of the disease in Bamako, the capital, and two others have tested positive.

Hundreds more may have been exposed. Officials from the U.N., the World Health Organization, the government of Mali and the CDC are all calling for swift action to keep Mali from descending into the Ebola chaos that's hit neighboring Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

When Rebecca "Mama" Barclay died in the summer of 2011, hundreds gathered for her funeral at a small Baptist church a few miles outside Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Men came in suits, women in black outfits or church robes and children in white to honor the 69-year-old woman, who was a respected community leader.

For years, health researchers have been excited about two new weapons in the war on HIV — a vaginal gel and a pill. Both reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission during intercourse and could give young women in Africa, where the virus is especially prevalent, a new way to protect themselves during sex.

There's just one problem: It's really difficult to get women to use them.

Medical teams plan to start three clinical trials in the fight against the Ebola virus next month, administering the drugs at treatment centers run by Doctors Without Borders in West Africa. Two of the therapies involve antiviral drugs.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Could you walk through an Ebola treatment center in Liberia without catching the virus?

Soon you may be able to find out from the comfort of your living room. Shift Labs, a Seattle-based tech outfit, has developed a prototype for a video game that could be used to train health workers on duty in West Africa.

Mali slapped quarantine orders on nearly 90 people on Wednesday and closed a mosque and a health facility in an effort to contain an Ebola outbreak.

The moves come after a nurse at a private clinic in the capital, Bamako, was confirmed as an Ebola victim.

If you're one of the billions of people who use Facebook and Google on a daily basis, you may have noticed some new messaging coming from the websites themselves. Both companies have launched Ebola relief fundraising campaigns in the past week, calling on their massive user logs (translation for nonsocial-media experts: all the people who waste time on these websites every day) to donate money to the cause.

In the early months of World War I, British Pvt. Ernest Cable was a member of the 2nd Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. Records show that in early 1915, his regiment was fighting in the trenches of Flanders, Belgium.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in the U.S. It used to be that wealthy, white northerners had the highest death rates. But in the past few decades the trend has shifted, and now the people at highest risk are poor, black southerners.

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