WBEZ | Science http://www.wbez.org/news/science Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Canine flu outbreak sickens hundreds of dogs in Midwest http://www.wbez.org/news/canine-flu-outbreak-sickens-hundreds-dogs-midwest-111880 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/dog nose_flickr_dickuhne.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>MADISON, Wis. &mdash; A canine flu outbreak has sickened many dogs in the Midwest, and veterinarians are cautioning pet owners to keep their dogs from going nose-to-nose with other four-legged friends.</p><p>The University of Wisconsin-Madison&#39;s School of Veterinary Medicine says the virus has sickened at least 1,000 dogs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. Recent tests from the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory have identified the strain as H3N2. Clinical assistant professor Keith Poulsen says it&#39;s not yet known how effective current vaccines are against this strain, which is believed to have come from Asia.</p><p>He said an older strain, H3N8, has also been detected in the region.</p><p>Both viruses can cause persistent cough, runny nose and fever in dogs. Experts say a small percentage will develop more severe symptoms. The H3N2 infection has been associated with some deaths.</p><p>Poulsen said pet owners with sick dogs should call a veterinarian to schedule a test outside the veterinary clinic and should not bring dogs into areas where they could interact with other dogs.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s really no different if you&#39;re talking about dogs or toddlers, if you think they&#39;re sick, don&#39;t bring them to daycare,&quot; Poulsen said.</p><p>Veterinarians say neither canine strain is related to bird flu or is contagious to humans, but the H3N2 strain could sicken cats.</p><p>Renee Brantner Shanesy, who owns the Ruffin&#39; It Resort in Madison, said the kennel required immunizations against H3N8 for all dogs boarded there late last week. Shanesy said she is now recommending, not requiring, the vaccination after veterinarians said it will not protect against the H3N2 strain.</p><p>&quot;The philosophy we&#39;re taking is, just like the human flu, everyone has to take the precaution for himself,&quot; she said.</p><p>Shanesy said she hasn&#39;t seen panic among dog owners, but the kennel is increasing its sanitizing practices. She said she had her two dogs vaccinated last week and she has cut out trips to the dog park to reduce the risk of exposure.</p><p>&quot;Like any other pet owner right now, I&#39;m not 100 percent comfortable,&quot; Shanesy said. &quot;Anything I can do to give them a better chance of immunity, I&#39;m in.&quot;</p><p>Sarah Duchemin, who works at The Dog Den in Madison, said the kennel has been monitoring its dogs for symptoms, and that if a dog shows up with a runny nose or is sneezing, it would be isolated and sent home. She said the kennel hasn&#39;t had a dog show any flu symptoms yet, but it cleans its floors and cages every day to prevent the spread of disease.</p><p>Luanne Moede, owner of the First Class Pet Lodge in Wausau, told the Wausau Daily Herald that clients are being asked if dogs have traveled out of the state. Moede also said she is informing pet owners about the disease.</p><p>In Illinois, vets say the cases are slowing but are still coming in. Chicago resident Jennifer Roache&#39;s mixed breed dog, Roxy-Rocket, is recovering after coming down with canine flu while boarded at Tucker Pup&#39;s Dog Activity Center last week while the family was away during spring break. Roache knew she was taking a risk by boarding the family pet during the outbreak, but she feels the boarding facility handled it well when the dog began to cough.</p><p>&quot;They got her to the vet right away and she was on antibiotics right away,&quot; Roache said. &quot;It feels a lot like when my kids get the flu. ... I&#39;m going to be watching her very closely when the antibiotics run out.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/canine-flu-outbreak-sickens-hundreds-dogs-midwest-111880 'Right to Try' measure passes Illinois House http://www.wbez.org/news/right-try-measure-passes-illinois-house-111878 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/medicine_flickr_epSos .de_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The Illinois House has approved a measure that would grant greater access to experimental drugs for terminally-ill patients.</p><p>Rep. Greg Harris is the chief sponsor of the legislation. The Chicago Democrat and other backers of establishing a &quot;Right to Try&quot; Act in Illinois say it gives those who have exhausted conventional treatments a chance at drugs that have only passed the first phase of federal testing and increases patient choice.</p><p>The measure passed with a vote of 114-1. It now moves to the Illinois Senate.</p><p>The lone &quot;no&quot; vote was Rep. Al Riley. The Democrat from suburban Olympia Fields says that he agrees with the concept of allowing more options for the terminally-ill but had concerns about safety.</p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 15:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/right-try-measure-passes-illinois-house-111878 Energy Department awards Argonne $200 million for new supercomputer http://www.wbez.org/news/science/energy-department-awards-argonne-200-million-new-supercomputer-111853 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/argonne.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that it will give Argonne National Laboratory $200 million to make the Chicago-area home to a high-performance supercomputer that is five to seven times faster than current top supercomputers.</p><p>&quot;The Aurora supercomputer will advance low-carbon energy technologies and our fundamental understanding of the universe,&quot; Undersecretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr said in a statement. Aurora will be available for scientific use in 2019 and use Intel Corp. system framework.</p><p>The goal is to build a supercomputer that will help the U.S. compete internationally with other next-generation computing efforts and ensure the United States&#39; economic and national security, agency officials said. The agency said Aurora specifically will be able to help develop materials that will lead to more powerful and efficient batteries and solar panels. Its other research areas include biological science, transportation and renewable energy.</p><p>Argonne National Laboratory is an Energy Department research center located about 25 miles west of Chicago.</p><p>The award is the third and final part of the $525 million Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Lawrence Livermore, or CORAL, initiative that started in November. The Energy Department previously announced $325 million to build supercomputers its laboratories in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Lawrence Livermore in Livermore, California.</p></p> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 16:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/energy-department-awards-argonne-200-million-new-supercomputer-111853 Ice stalls Great Lakes shipping season http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-stalls-great-lakes-shipping-season-111806 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Great Lakes_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the second year in a row, the spring shipping season is off to a slow start. Ice still covers much of the lakes and most ports don&rsquo;t expect to see international cargo ships for another two weeks.</p><p>April is historically the busiest time of year for the more than 100 ports and commercial docks along the Great Lakes.</p><p>Rick Heimann is port director for Burns Harbor in Portage, Indiana.</p><p>Burns Harbor handles more international cargo than any other port along the Great Lakes, including 15 percent of U.S. steel shipments to Europe. But at the end of March, the docks are empty.</p><p>On any given year, an average of 500,000 trucks, 10,000 railcars and 100 ships will pass through the port.</p><p>It was so cold last year, he didn&rsquo;t see a cargo ship until mid-April.</p><p>Around this time last year, more than half of Lake Michigan was covered in ice. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard share the responsibility of clearing the Great Lakes waterways.</p><p>Every year, in early March, they deploy a fleet of icebreakers before the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 22,000-mile-long waterway that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.</p><p>But U.S. Coast Guard Mark Gill says it was 13 days after opening up the waterway that the first ship was able to reach the locks.</p><p>&ldquo;And a lot of ships incurred damage because they came out and the ice was too hard for them,&rdquo; Gill said.</p><p>Gill says the Coast Guard logged more than 11,000 hours of breaking ice in 2014.</p><p>According to the Lake Carrier&rsquo;s Association, last year&rsquo;s icey waterways cost the economy more than $700 million and nearly 4,000 jobs.</p><p>Mark Baker is president of the Interlake Steamship Company and a member of the Lake Carrier&rsquo;s Association. His boats carry steel. Others along this route carry grains.</p><p>Baker says it took one his ships 23 days to complete a trip that normally takes six.</p><p>&ldquo;And so what happened there was, their inventory levels became critically low. And in some cases, some steel mills last year had to idle plants and cut down on on production,&rdquo; Baker said.</p><p>Baker adds that the the repercussions of a bad shipping season would be felt throughout the U.S. steel industry, which feeds the U.S. auto industry. Baker says his steel is used in small plants in Michigan and Wisconsin.&nbsp;</p><p>The Lake Carriers Association wants the Coast Guard to invest in another heavy icebreaker to keep shipping lanes open during harsh winters.</p><p>But the Coast Guard says last year&rsquo;s winter was unique.</p><p>At the port of Indiana, Heimann says that&#39;s what scary.</p><p>&ldquo;Ice is something that you don&rsquo;t have control over,&rdquo; Heimann said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just say: &lsquo;Ice be-gone or bring the coast guard cutter in all the time.&rsquo;&quot;</p><p>He adds that the delayed start to the 2015 season doesn&#39;t phase him, but he is counting the days until the first ships roll in.</p><p>&ldquo;We are connecting the state of Indiana to the world,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re in the state of Indiana, the heartland of the USA, yet we are only six and a half days away from the Atlantic Ocean.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, at a time of widespread delays, Burns Harbor recorded its highest cargo volume since the port opened in 1970.</p><p><em>Claudia Morell is a reporter in Chicago. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/claudiamorell" target="_blank">@claudiamorell</a></em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-stalls-great-lakes-shipping-season-111806 Climate change brings pests and disease to Great Lakes http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/climate-change-brings-pests-and-disease-great-lakes-111805 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/4220922584_ac8db1a31f_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Scientists say the parks and woods throughout the Great Lakes are experiencing shorter winters and displaced wildlife.</p><p>Chicagoans are already seeing bigger storms and less predictable seasons.</p><p>But some scientists predict people will soon see more concrete examples of changing climate: disease.</p><p>Scientists are predicting a greater danger of diseases like West Nile and Lyme disease as temperatures rise. Some even believe dengue fever could become a problem in the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that we&rsquo;re already seeing is a shifting of growing zones,&rdquo; said Josh Mogerman, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re seeing plants and animals that we would expect further south making their way into our region, and they&rsquo;ll have a real impact on our natural environment here.&rdquo;</p><p>Mogerman thinks for a lot of people, it will be a reality check.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, when I think of dengue fever, I don&rsquo;t think of the United States, I think of developing countries, like Heart of Darkness, and that sort of thing,&quot; Mogerman said. &quot;And I think this is one of those issues that really makes people sort of step back and say &lsquo;whoa, this really is a problem.&#39;&rdquo;</p><p>Diseases like Lyme, dengue, and West Nile are known as &ldquo;vector-bound diseases.&rdquo;</p><p>The vectors that carry these illnesses &mdash; ticks and mosquitoes &mdash;&nbsp;didn&rsquo;t used to be a big problem in Chicago.</p><p>But a warmer climate is changing that.</p><p>Dr. Justin Harbison teaches at Loyola University&rsquo;s School of Public Health.</p><p>&ldquo;We know that mosquitoes develop more quickly when it&rsquo;s warmer,&quot; Harbison said. &quot;And pathogens also go through their life cycle faster, and reproduce more quickly. So as the weather gets warmer, typically you&rsquo;re going to get a more rapid disease cycle.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>He says the worst case for disease is a short, warm winter followed by a dry summer. That&rsquo;s what we saw in 2012, when the Illinois Department of Public Health reported almost 300 cases of West Nile virus.</p><p>Warmer weather also drives migrating deer north. They come with hitchhikers: black-legged ticks that carry Lyme disease.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health has been reporting increasing cases of Lyme disease.</p><p>In 2002, there were only 32 cases. By 2012, there were over 200. The deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are now found in at least 35 counties in Illinois. In 2013 alone, they appeared in seven more counties.</p><p>The suburbs are of particular concern for Lyme disease. There, humans are more likely to come into contact with the animals that carry ticks, like woodland mice and deer.</p><p>Mosquitoes are the bigger problem in urban areas.</p><p>On a walk through Busse Woods in Chicago&rsquo;s Northwest suburbs, Harbison pulled open an iron sewer grate to explain.</p><p>&ldquo;This is going to hold water all year round,&quot; Harbison said. &quot;It&rsquo;s polluted. West Nile virus is transmitted by a specific species that does very well in these polluted habitats, essentially.&rdquo;</p><p>This isn&rsquo;t limited to the Midwest, of course. And it&rsquo;s about more than just ticks and mosquitoes.</p><p>&ldquo;Health is where climate change starts to get very personal for people,&rdquo; said Dr. Kim Knowlton, a top scientist for the NRDC. She says Americans are about to see all sorts of public health effects from climate change.</p><p>&ldquo;The hotter it is, the more ground level ozone, which is basically smog,&quot; Knowlton said. &quot;And that is terrible news for people who have asthma. It&rsquo;s making longer pollen seasons. There&rsquo;s more and more of these climate-change-related exposures, and we, as a nation are becoming more vulnerable.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s not to say there&rsquo;s nothing we can do about it.</p><p>Public health officials in Illinois recommend getting rid of standing water to cut down on mosquito growth, wearing bug spray to prevent transmission, and knowing the dangers of these new illnesses.</p><p><em>Sean Kennedy is a reporter in Chicago. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/stkennedy" target="_blank">@stkennedy</a></em></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-and-center-water/climate-change-brings-pests-and-disease-great-lakes-111805 With petcoke out in Chicago, Indiana groups worry it's heading their way http://www.wbez.org/news/petcoke-out-chicago-indiana-groups-worry-its-heading-their-way-111595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BP Petcoke.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Tom Shepherd was celebrating on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side Thursday but it had nothing to do with President Barack Obama&rsquo;s arrival to declare the historic Pullman area a National Monument.</p><p>Shepherd, president of the Southeast Environmental Council, was cautiously optimistic about the news that the area&rsquo;s ongoing petcoke problem is one step closer to being resolved.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, at this point, it&rsquo;s still kind of early in the game,&rdquo; Shepherd told WBEZ. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve just been getting this information. It&rsquo;s been coming in pretty feverishly over the last couple of days. We&rsquo;ve heard from the city, we&rsquo;ve heard from the company.&rdquo;</p><p>On Thursday, the Koch Brothers-owned KCBX Terminals Inc. announced that it was shuttering its North Terminal on the Southeast side within the next five months.</p><p>That means it will no longer accept petcoke on that site but has no immediate plans for the property.</p><p>The company also announced that it will take steps to eliminate petcoke piles at its nearby South Terminal on Burley Avenue by June 2016, a deadline imposed by the City of Chicago.</p><p>Shepherd says the company will continue accepting petcoke from other nearby refineries so the issue is not dead.</p><p>&ldquo;The BP announcement is going to put a dent in their operations but it will still take product from two other refineries in the area. So, that operation is going to continue,&rdquo; Shepherd said. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s still a big win.&rdquo;</p><p>But that win could eventually be Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s loss.</p><p>Kim Ferraro, lead attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, says she&rsquo;s worried all that petcoke could end up dumped in struggling cities such as Gary, Hammond and East Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We may see some effort to put petcoke on those sites. And certainly it&rsquo;s a concern for communities here who are already dealing with so much exposure to harmful pollution,&rdquo; Ferraro said.</p><p>All this comes a day after BP announced that it will stop shipping petcoke from its massive Whiting, Indiana, refinery to KCBX by this summer.</p><p>&ldquo;Based on a number of considerations, BP has made the business decision to store the majority of its petroleum coke produced by the Whiting Refinery at a facility outside of Illinois beginning in the second half of 2015. A final decision has not yet been made on where this material will be stored in the future,&rdquo; BP spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement. &ldquo;If necessary for business reasons, BP may consider using limited Illinois-based storage options on a short-term basis if those options are compliant with state and local regulations.&rdquo;</p><p>Earlier this week, the City of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Public Health announced it would not give KCBX more time to comply with a two-year requirement to enclose coal and petroleum coke piles. &nbsp;KCBX wanted another 14 months.</p><p>But KCBX President Dave Severson says the company wants to stay in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We remain committed to Chicago and we are going to work within the city&rsquo;s new rules to try to stay in business,&rdquo; Severson said in a written statement. &ldquo;We expect we&rsquo;ll have to make some adjustments to the services we provide our customers but we hope operating this way will allow us to remain in business and give us the time we need to determine whether we can proceed with the enclosure project.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s been a long struggle for residents on the Southeast side who live in the shadow of the petcoke storage sites. In late August 2013, a huge dust-storm covered nearby homes and businesses with the ash-like substance, a byproduct in the refining of crude oil.</p><p>Residents have been concerned about the long-term health effects of breathing in petcoke dust.</p><p>Activists say even if KCBX covers its piles, petcoke can still become airborne and fall into the lake as it&rsquo;s transported via train or truck from Whiting, Indiana. &nbsp;</p><p>Meanwhile, the Illinois Manufacturers&rsquo; Association continues to defend the handling of petcoke.</p><p>&ldquo;Petcoke is a valuable commodity used in a wide range of manufacturing applications including cement, paint, steel and glass,&rdquo; Mark Denzler, vice president of the IMA, stated to WBEZ. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s extremely important to keep in mind that the United States Environmental Protection Agency does not classify petcoke as a hazardous substance and an August 2014 analysis found no traces of the material in local furnace filters. Elected officials need to focus on creating good jobs and economic development.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 08:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/petcoke-out-chicago-indiana-groups-worry-its-heading-their-way-111595 Illinois lawmakers work to close vaccination loopholes http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-work-close-vaccination-loopholes-111577 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/kirilpipo_5.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/kirilpipo)" /></p><p>Illinois pediatricians and health officials think it&rsquo;s too easy to avoid vaccinations in the state. According to federal figures, Illinois has the 5th highest level of non-medical vaccination exemptions in the nation.</p><p>In response, four state representatives have introduced a resolution urging the Illinois Department of Public Health to tighten the exemption process. Parents previously could obtain a religious exemption by simply submitting a signed statement about their personal objections. But a new proposal would require those parents to first consult with a primary care provider about the importance of vaccines.</p><p>The resolution (HR0144) was introduced by State Representatives Michael Zalewski (D-21), Michael McAuliffe (R-20), Robyn Gabel (D-18) and Greg Harris (D-13) and endorsed by the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) and EverThrive Illinois, formerly known as the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition. The two groups are part of the Illinois Immunization Advisory Committee and have been working for more than a year on a proposal to address the exemption process.</p><p>The move to bolster vaccinations in the state came as more than a dozen measles case were confirmed by Illinois officials. All but one are associated with a Kindercare Center in Palatine.</p><p>According to state figures, Illinois&rsquo; non-medical vaccine exemptions doubled in four years, from 5,629 in 2009 to 13,527 in 2013. This has led pediatricians to worry about the loss of what&rsquo;s called herd immunity&mdash;an environment that prevents a disease from spreading.</p><p>&ldquo;In order for a community to have herd immunity, you really need to maintain vaccination rates around 95 percent,&rdquo; said Dr. Tina Tan, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Lurie Children&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago. &ldquo;Otherwise, what happens is, that when the rates drop below 95 percent, you can have the reemergence or reappearance of these preventable diseases occurring in individuals that are either not vaccinated or are too young to be vaccinated.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">Monica Eng</a> is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the <a href="http://wbez.org/podcasts">Chewing The Fat</a> podcast.</em></p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 20:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-work-close-vaccination-loopholes-111577 With quakes spiking, oil industry is under the microscope in Oklahoma http://www.wbez.org/news/science/quakes-spiking-oil-industry-under-microscope-oklahoma-111572 <p><p>Out on Oklahoma&#39;s flat prairie, Medford, population about 900, is the kind of place where people give directions from the four-way stop in the middle of town.</p><p>It seems pretty sedate, but it&#39;s not. &quot;We are shaking all the time,&quot; says Dea Mandevill, the city manager. &quot;All the time.&quot;</p><p>The afternoon I stopped by, Mandevill says two quakes had already rumbled through Medford.</p><p>&quot;Light day,&quot; she laughs. But, she adds, &quot;the day&#39;s not over yet; we still have several more hours.&quot;</p><p>Mandevill may be laughing it off, but Austin Holland, the state seismologist, isn&#39;t.</p><p>&quot;I certainly regret starting smoking again, but there are some days when nicotine and coffee are about what get me through the day,&quot; he says. &quot;As far as we know, this has never happened before.&quot;</p><p>Holland says that Oklahoma used to have, on average, one or two perceptible earthquakes a year. Now the state is averaging two or three a day. There were more magnitude 3 or greater tremors here last year than anywhere else in the continental United States, and the unprecedented spike in earthquakes has intensified.</p><p>Holland suspects that modern oil production techniques are triggering the jump in quakes. A few years back, companies figured out how to drill sideways through layers of shale, then break, or frack, the rock, releasing a torrent of oil.</p><p>The combination of fracking and horizontal drilling sparked a massive oil boom here, but the technique produces much more water than oil &mdash; tens of billions of gallons of very salty, toxic water. The only economical way to dispose of it, Holland says, is to force it deep into the earth.</p><p>&quot;That pressure acts as a lubricant,&quot; he says. &quot;It&#39;s not actually the water itself lubricating, but the pressure, and the best way to think about that is an air hockey table,&quot; with huge slabs of rock as the pucks.</p><p>Holland says injecting water near faults can deliver just enough lubricating pressure to set them in motion. It&#39;s called &quot;induced seismicity.&quot;</p><p>The Prague earthquake hit the state four years ago. At magnitude 5.6, it was the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma.</p><p>&quot;It was coming from everywhere &mdash; I mean the walls, the roof,&quot; says Ryan Ladra, standing in his parents&#39; battered house. &quot;When it hit, it hit so violent and hard that we thought the house was coming down on top of us.&quot;</p><p>The Ladras&#39; stone chimney collapsed, striking his mom, Sandra, who is suing companies that ran nearby wastewater injection wells.</p><p>But Kim Hatfield of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association says he&#39;s not convinced there&#39;s a connection. He says oil companies have been pumping brine down wastewater injection wells for decades. More than 3,200 of the wells dot the state.</p><p>&quot;You&#39;re going to find out that all tornadoes are close to injection wells as well,&quot; he says. &quot;If a meteor strikes the state of Oklahoma, I&#39;m going to guarantee it&#39;s going to be close to an injection well.&quot;</p><p>Still, evidence linking injection wells to earthquakes is building. And though oil industry wields enormous clout in Oklahoma, the agency regulating it is ramping up.</p><p>Matt Skinner, public information manager for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, says that the agency has never denied a permit for a disposal well, but it has recently closed a few bad ones and is scrutinizing applications for new wells like never before.</p><p>&quot;When we say we&#39;re doing everything we can, what we&#39;re really saying is, we&#39;re doing everything we know, today,&quot; Skinner says. &quot;Tomorrow, we may know something more.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dea_medford-61167ff8f4cededddab27c9a2a9e68834208ce8b-s400-c85.jpg" style="float: left; height: 209px; width: 280px;" title="Dea Mandevill, city manager of Medford, Okla., says the earthquakes are worth all the benefits the oil boom has brought: a new park, police cars, construction equipment and ambulances. (Frank Morris/KCUR)" />Mandevill says she worries about an earthquake rupturing the big natural gas pipeline here &mdash; but then beams while looking out over the new park the city recently built with oil boom tax money.</p><p>&quot;We have a new swimming pool, splash pad, new sidewalks and a new basketball/tennis court,&quot; she says.</p><p>It illustrates the complex relationship between oil and earthquakes in Oklahoma.</p><p>&quot;You put up with a few things falling off your walls, a few nights being woken up in the middle of the night with the shakes,&quot; she says. &quot;Overall it&#39;s been good. I&#39;ll take the earthquakes for all the benefits that Medford&#39;s had so far.&quot;</p><p>But those benefits are starting to sag a little. With oil prices low, companies are laying off workers. On the bright side, less oil coming out of the ground means less wastewater going back down deep into it, and just possibly, fewer earthquakes.</p></p> Tue, 17 Feb 2015 08:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/quakes-spiking-oil-industry-under-microscope-oklahoma-111572 As rules get sorted out, drones may transform agriculture industry http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-get-sorted-out-drones-may-transform-agriculture-industry-111567 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/img_3297_wide-0eaf22bd10778693f1839956d8a491c74b257934-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a breezy morning in rural Weld County, Colo., Jimmy Underhill quickly assembles a black and orange drone with four spinning rotors. We&#39;re right next to a corn field, littered with stalks left over from last year&#39;s harvest.</p><p>&quot;This one just flies itself. It&#39;s fully autonomous,&quot; Underhill says.</p><p>Underhill is a drone technician with <a href="http://agribotix.com/">Agribotix, a Colorado-based drone start</a> up that sees farmers as its most promising market. Today he&#39;s training his fellow employees how to work the machine in the field.</p><p>&quot;So if you want to start, we can walk over to the drone,&quot; Underhill says. &quot;It&#39;s got a safety button on here.&quot; And now it&#39;ll start flying.&quot;</p><p>The quadcopter zips 300 feet into the air directly above our heads, pauses for a moment and then begins to move.</p><p>&quot;So it just turned to the East and it&#39;s going to start its lawnmower pattern,&quot; Underhill says.</p><p>What makes the drone valuable to farmers is the camera on board. It snaps a high-resolution photo every two seconds. From there Agribotix stitches the images together, sniffing out problem spots in the process. Knowing what&#39;s happening in a field can save a farmer money.</p><p>At farm shows across the country, drones have become as ubiquitous as John Deere tractors. The Colorado Farm Show earlier this year included an informational session, telling farmers both the technical and legal challenges ahead.</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s a very exciting time,&quot; says farmer Darren Salvador, who grows 2,000 acres of wheat and corn near the Colorado-Nebraska border.</p><p>&quot;Can you look at disease concern, insect concern, so now you can be more proactive and treat smaller areas and not treat the entire field,&quot; he says.</p><p>Salvador and about 50 other farmers got an earful from Rory Paul, CEO of <a href="http://www.voltaerialrobotics.com/">Volt Aerial Robotics</a>, a St. Louis-based drone start up.</p><p>&quot;We really don&#39;t know what they&#39;re good for,&quot; Paul says. &quot;We&#39;ve got a few ideas of where they could benefit agriculture. The majority of which are still theoretical.&quot; Theoretical because commercial drone use is still widely banned in the U.S.</p><p>On Sunday, the Federal Aviation Administration <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/02/15/386464188/commercial-drone-rules-to-limit-their-speed-and-altitude">released long-awaited draft rules </a>on the operation of pilotless drones, opening the nation&#39;s airspace to the commercial possibilities of the burgeoning technology, but not without restrictions.</p><p>Currently, companies may apply for exemptions from the FAA, but the requirements to get that exemption can be costly. Like requiring drone operators to hold a private pilot&#39;s license.</p><p>&quot;These small drones, that are almost priced to be expensive toys, are not reliable. And that&#39;s the concern of the FAA,&quot; says Eric Frew, who studies drones at the University of Colorado-Boulder.</p><p><a href="http://www.faa.gov/">The FAA </a>didn&#39;t respond to requests for comment for this story, but Frew says the agency is trying to find a balance. Putting a large flying machine in the hands of someone who&#39;s inexperienced can cause big problems.</p><p>&quot;When these systems work, they work fantastically. When they don&#39;t work, they don&#39;t work,&quot; Frew says.</p><p>Back at the corn field in rural Colorado, Agribotix President Tom McKinnon watches as the drone comes in for a landing.</p><p>&quot;So we bash the FAA a lot,&quot; McKinnon says. &quot;I mean the FAA&#39;s job is air safety. And they have delivered on that. But when it comes to drones they&#39;re badly fumbling the ball.&quot;</p><p>McKinnon says until the agency gives solid guidance to commercial drone operators, he&#39;ll be doing most of his work in countries like Australia and Brazil where laws are friendlier to farm drones.</p><p><em><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2015/02/16/385520242/as-rules-get-sorted-out-drones-may-transform-agriculture-industry" target="_blank">NPR&#39;s All Tech Considered</a></em> and <a href="http://harvestpublicmedia.org/">Harvest Public Media</a>, a reporting collaboration that focuses on agriculture and food production.</em></p></p> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 11:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/rules-get-sorted-out-drones-may-transform-agriculture-industry-111567 Doctors grapple with how to talk to vaccine-hesitant parents http://www.wbez.org/news/science/doctors-grapple-how-talk-vaccine-hesitant-parents-111558 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Measles-parent_150213_oy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Anna Jakubek&rsquo;s cozy apartment in Chicago&rsquo;s Rogers Park neighborhood can be chaotic in the mornings as she readies her six-year-old daughter, Nina, for school.</p><p>On weekdays, Jakubek makes sure Nina eats her organic berries, bacon and eggs, dresses her and brushes her hair. Then they rush out the door, hoping not to miss the bus.</p><p>Nina, who attends Chicago Public Schools, only received her MMR shot, against measles, mumps and rubella, a few months ago. Worried that her daughter would not be allowed to participate fully in school activities, Jakubek had her inoculated just before she started kindergarten.</p><p>But Jakubek still has not had her younger daughter, three-year-old Mila, vaccinated. With the exception of the MMR vaccine, Mila has received all the shots she should have, including Hepatitis A, Dtap, and more.</p><p>&ldquo;So what I really refuse right now is this MMR,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Doctors recommend that children get the MMR vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age. But Jakubek, like many other vaccine-hesitant parents, believes it could cause autism, behavioral disorders, or problems with her child&rsquo;s nervous system. The original study that suggested a link between vaccines and autism <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/01/06/132703314/study-linking-childhood-vaccine-and-autism-was-fraudulent">has long been discredited</a>, and further studies have conclusively shown no link between vaccines and those conditions. Still, Jakubek is unconvinced.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like getting the vaccination is a greater risk than getting (the) actual disease,&rdquo; said Jakubek, who herself had the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine as a child growing up in Poland. &ldquo;If I had a choice not to vaccinate her at all, yeah, I wouldn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>So far, Jakubek said she hasn&rsquo;t experienced much push-back on her beliefs. Other parents have not challenged her, and her children&rsquo;s pediatrician has respected her wishes.</p><p>&ldquo;She&rsquo;s not pushing, which I really appreciate that, she&rsquo;s not pushing,&rdquo; Jakubek said of the pediatrician. &ldquo;She wants (an) explanation why, and I deliver that explanation and she will tell me that this could be a deadly disease, and I have my opinion about this, too. So we exchange three or four sentences and this is it.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;There are physicians who have just given up,&rdquo; said Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Jacobson says he looks at the recent resurgence of measles, as well as dismally low vaccination rates for other diseases, such as the flu, and he blames his fellow medical community.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s our fault,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re being challenged and we should rise up to the challenge and make sure our patients hear our recommendations.&rdquo;</p><p>For the last several years, Jacobson has been training other doctors on how to talk to parents like Jakubek. His methodology, which he calls the C.A.S.E. Approach, urges doctors to establish personal connections with vaccine-hesitant parents.</p><p>&ldquo;They want to hear your expertise, they want to hear your recommendation,&rdquo; Jacobson said of parents. &ldquo;They want to hear what you&rsquo;re doing with your own children, and what you would do if you were in their shoes.&rdquo;</p><p>Jacobson said he is dismayed when he sometimes hears about doctors who ban unvaccinated children from their practices, or who stuff parents&rsquo; arms with brochures on vaccines, rather than discuss the issue with them. In his trainings, Jacobson said he urges doctors to have those conversations in their offices when they come up</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got real work to do, and we can&rsquo;t just rely on being the high priests of medicine,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>For Jakubek, those discussions might push her away from her doctor. But she may end up vaccinating her younger daughter soon, anyhow.</p><p>In the wake of Illinois&rsquo;s measles resurgence, her younger daughter&rsquo;s daycare informed parents that they should get their children vaccinated. Jakubek said she&rsquo;d still rather wait, but she&rsquo;ll do it if she has to.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/wbezoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 08:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/doctors-grapple-how-talk-vaccine-hesitant-parents-111558