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.

More than 12 million Americans buy health insurance on their own, and many are getting cancellation notices because their individual coverage does not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act. This is causing anxiety and anger — especially since most of these people can't get onto the website to figure out their options for 2014.

Today marks a milestone on the nation's long march toward universal health coverage: the launch of online marketplaces, called exchanges, designed to help people find insurance they can afford.

It's an idea pioneered by Massachusetts seven years ago. People here call their program a success, and say the state's exchange was an indispensable factor.

Researchers say a cheap, generic pill called finasteride prevents almost 40 percent of low-grade prostate cancers without increasing the risk of dying from more aggressive tumors.

New evidence points to the drug as a potentially safer way to deal with prostate cancers that now get more intense treatment. Many prostate cancers that aren't destined to cause men serious health problems are often treated with surgery or radiation.

A federal task force is planning to recommend that millions of smokers and former smokers get a CT scan annually to look for early signs of lung cancer.

The 16-member US Preventive Services Task Force gives that lung cancer screening test a grade of B, which puts it on the same level as mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 74.

Looking crisp and official in his khaki-colored sheriff's department polo shirt, Steve Steinhardt says Sheboygan, Wis., is a pretty good place to be a director of emergency services.

"Nothing bad happens here," he says, knocking on wood. Unless, that is, you count the tuberculosis outbreak that struck the orderly Midwestern city of 50,000 this spring and summer.

"I never expected TB to be one of the bigger emergencies I'd face when I got into this field," Steinhardt says.

A vaccine against human papillomavirus — the most common sexually transmitted infection and the cause of almost all cervical cancer — is dramatically reducing the prevalence of HPV in teenage girls.

The first vaccine against HPV, Merck's Gardasil, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006. Cerverix, from GlaxoSmithKline, was approved in 2009.

The World Health Organization is warning health care workers everywhere to suspect a disease called Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, whenever they see a case of unexplained pneumonia.

Monday's warning comes at the end of a six-day WHO investigation in Saudi Arabia, where 40 of the 55 cases of the respiratory disease have occurred. Sixty percent of those people with known infections died.

Every day in hospitals all over America, thousands of patients die of infections that used to be curable. But the antibiotics used to treat them aren't working anymore.

It's called drug resistance, and it's largely a consequence of antibiotics overuse. The more germs are exposed to antibiotics, the faster they mutate to evade being vanquished.

Thanks to gold-standard tuberculosis treatment and prevention programs, cases of TB in the United States have declined every year for the past two decades — to the lowest level ever.

But TB's course through the Williams family in Boston shows that no nation can afford to relax its efforts to find, treat and prevent TB. It's just too sneaky and stubborn an adversary.

The number of Boston bombing victims still in the hospital dropped to 19 as of Wednesday evening. The great majority have gone home or to a rehab facility.

That's what has happened with Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, a mother-daughter pair who ended up in the same hospital room after being struck down by the first marathon bomb blast.

Sixteen cases of a new flu around Shanghai have touched off a major effort to determine what kind of threat this new bug might be.

The victims range in age from 4 to 87 years old. Six have died. It is a tragedy for them and their families, but is it a global crisis?

To understand why so few cases are generating so much concern, the first thing to know is that no flu virus like this one — called H7N9 — has ever been known to infect humans before.

Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger.

In one recent 10-year period, the rate of strokes in Americans younger than 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in 5 strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old — up from 1 in 8 in the mid-1990s.

Nothing sends more kids to the hospital than asthma.

So when doctors at Children's Hospital in Boston noticed they kept seeing an unusually high number of asthmatic kids from certain low-income neighborhoods, they wondered if they could do something about the environment these kids were living in.

Scientists believe a little girl born with HIV has been cured of the infection.

She's the first child and only the second person in the world known to have been cured since the virus touched off a global pandemic nearly 32 years ago.

Doctors aren't releasing the child's name, but we know she was born in Mississippi and is now 2 1/2 years old — and healthy. Scientists presented details of the case Sunday at a scientific conference in Atlanta.

Researchers say more young American women are being diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.

It's a newly recognized trend. The numbers are small, but it's been going on for a generation. And the trend has accelerated in recent years.

There's still more to learn about the risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting.

Studies in this week's New England Journal of Medicine show that the risk for women has been under-appreciated for decades. New data also quantify the surprising payoffs of smoking cessation — especially under the age of 40.

Dr. Beth Zeeman says she can spot a case of influenza from 20 paces. It's not like a common cold.

"People think they've had the flu when they've had colds," Zeeman, an emergency room specialist at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Mass., tells Shots. "People use the word 'flu' for everything. But having influenza is really a different thing. It hits you like a ton of bricks."

It's no news that the U.S. has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than most high-income countries. But a magisterial new report says Americans are actually less healthy across their entire life spans than citizens of 16 other wealthy nations.

And the gap is steadily widening.

The past year has seen more debate about the best way to find breast cancers.

A recent analysis concluded that regular mammograms haven't reduced the rate of advanced breast cancers — but they have led more than a million women to be diagnosed with tumors that didn't need to be treated.

Boston brain surgeon Ed Smith points to a tangle of delicate gray shadows on his computer screen. It's an X-ray of the blood vessels on the left side of 13-year-old Maribel Ramos' brain.

Before Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton passes the reins to her successor, she's got a few loose ends to tie up. One of them is mapping out the U.S.'s continuing efforts to combat AIDS around the world.

So today she unveiled a "blueprint" for what she called an "AIDS-free generation."

Now Clinton isn't talking about ending the HIV pandemic altogether. Rather, she hopes to prevent most new infections from occurring in the first place and to stop HIV-positive people from developing AIDS.

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."

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.

Scientists have recently discovered three new human viruses.

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.

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.