The Pulse – June 20, 2014

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    Millions of people suffer from toenail fungus. It’s disgusting, embarrassing, and nearly impossible to get rid of without the help of prescription pills that carry the possibility of damaging your liver. Nail salons have been targeted as ground zero for spreading this menacing fungi, so we go on a quest to see how it spreads, how we deal with it, and which new antifungal products stand the best chance of giving the infected their toenails back.

    Hospitals across the country are struggling to deal with a shortage of one of their most essential medical supplies—saline solution. Manufacturers are rationing this staple of the medical world, used all over the hospital to clean wounds, mix medications, or treat dehydration. Now drug companies say they won’t be able to catch up with demand until next year. Reporter April Dembosky from KQED in San Francisco explains why something as basic as salt water is so hard to come by.

    Retired workers from the Pennsylvania Department of Health tell WHYY reporter Katie Colaneri that they were silenced on the issue of Marcellus Shale drilling, even instructed not to return phone calls from residents who expressed health concerns about natural gas development. Retirees allege words like “fracking,” “gas,” and “soil contamination” became taboo when conversing with the public.

    Cancer researchers often use fruit flies to study the disease, altering the flies’ genetics to learn how to combat cancer cells. Scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia have been on the forefront of using this approach, and now they’ve expanded their team of researchers to include one very unlikely group: students at a resource-strapped Philadelphia public school. We go to class with a bunch of young people helping in the fight against cancer.

    Like childhood vaccinations, Lyme disease has become a topic that can bring a friendly dinner party to a screeching halt. Controversy rages over diagnosing and treating this debilitating disease, and to make matters worse, a new investigative report out this week suggests that many Lyme disease tests may not be accurate. We talk with investigative journalist Beth Daley about what exactly is going on with these questionable tests.

    Also on the show, the debate over how much salt is too much in our diets, Southern New Jersey veterans are promised same-day doctors appointments in the wake of the VA waiting list scandal, and a look at why nearly one in five inmates entering Pennsylvania prisons has Hepatitis-C.

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