Federal health officials are urging all Americans to get their flu shots as soon as possible, and are especially concerned that too few elderly people are getting vaccinated.

"Flu is serious. Flu is unpredictable," Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters during a joint briefing Thursday with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. "Flu often does not get enough respect."

The carcinogen often referred to as the "Erin Brockovich chemical" is present in about two-thirds of the drinking water across the country, according to water testing data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Courtesy Adam Berger

When Adam Berger, 29, who has Type 1 diabetes, decided to get a sandwich from a deli, he first ran it by his mobile application ezbds, which he launched in Stamford two years ago.

When you shop for cleaning supplies, brightly colored bottles advertise stain-removing powers or "whiter whites." But it’s hard to get clear information about what the chemical ingredients could do to your health or the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency is hoping to change that.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

In the last couple years, millions of people across the country have learned their drinking water contains high levels of the contaminants known as perfluorochemicals. These are used to make non-stick products like Teflon and pizza boxes. 

Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She's got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick.

"It feels weird right now, but I'll get used to it," she says.

What she's trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth.

On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay.

Stefonik is just 31 years old.

Connecticut Hospitals Wake Up to the Need for Sleep

Sep 6, 2016
4x4foto/iStock / Thinkstock

Clattering carts, overly bright lights and frequent disruptions make hospitals a tough place to get a good night’s sleep.

But now, hospitals across Connecticut are launching efforts to help patients sleep longer and better.

milindri/iStock / Thinkstock

Last month, several of Connecticut's 911 dispatch centers experienced temporary system outages. The blackouts occurred amid a multi-million-dollar upgrade to the state's legacy infrastructure -- an effort that has since been put on hold. This hour, we take a closer look at what happened and consider what's being done to bring 911 technology into the 21st century

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Connecticut officials have responded to the state’s opioid epidemic with solutions like expanded access to overdose prevention kits at pharmacies, and limitations on pain killer prescriptions. But much of the fight to save lives is taking place after business hours, and in the most directly affected communities.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Self-identified gay men in Connecticut make up a growing percentage of new HIV infection cases, an alarming trend over the last decade that's forcing AIDS activists to get creative. 

Maryam Jameel / Center for Public Integrity

Sixty years after his service in the Army, Jesse Eakin still completes his outfits with a pin that bears a lesson from the Korean War: Never Impossible.

Six Things to Know About Ticks and Lyme Disease

Jun 20, 2016
Fairfax County/Flickr / Creative Common

This year, 97 percent of blacklegged ticks -- commonly known as deer ticks -- survived the Connecticut winter, and are hungry for blood as temperatures warm.

I'm hanging out with my 4-year-old daughter in the early evening, trying to keep her entertained and pull dinner together, when my phone buzzes.

Normally I'd feel guilty for checking it immediately, and distracted even if I didn't. But this time it's not a Twitter mention or an email from my editor. It's a timely suggestion from an app called Muse.

Here's what it says: "Try playing 'Simon Says' with L, using directional words like: behind, around, between. (ex. 'Simon Says stand between the chairs.')"

The Food and Drug Administration is leaning on the food industry to cut back on the amount of sodium added to processed and prepared foods.

The FDA on Wednesday released a draft of new sodium-reduction targets for dozens of categories of foods — from bakery goods to soups.

Ian Sane / Creative Commons

Most of us have heard that our bodies need eight cups of water every day to stay healthy and hydrated. Some think that's the minimum we should drink to prevent the chronic dehydration that doesn't trigger the usual warnings of dryness, like thirst.  

Thomas Hawk / WNPR

A new report commissioned by two Connecticut organizations looks at the challenges children face when their parents are in prison. This hour, we check in with one of those groups -- the Connecticut Association for Human Services -- to see what they found and how they plan on using the results to guide future policy conversations. We also hear from a college student whose father spent nearly a decade behind bars.

Six years of your life. Or 2,190 days. That's about how long the average woman will spend having her periods.

For some women, that's too many days, too many periods.

More women in their 20s and 30s are choosing contraception that may suppress their menstrual cycles, says Dr. Elizabeth Micks, who runs an OB-GYN clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle. "In general, I think views are changing really rapidly," Micks says. "That need to have regular periods is not just in our society anymore."

A few weeks ago, Dr. James Bale saw a series of MRI images in a medical journal of MRI scans of babies infected with Zika in the womb.

They scans showed something Bale had seen only a few times in his 30-year career: a phenomenon called fetal brain disruption sequence.

As the fetus's brain starts to grow, it creates pressure, which pushes on the skull and causes it to grow. But if something stops brain growth — such as a virus — pressure on the skull drops. And the skull can collapse down onto the brain.

A new report by the Connecticut Coalition To End Homelessness says homelessness in the state is at an all-time low, with fewer than 4,000 homeless people in Connecticut since counts started in 2007.

Every year the Coalition does what’s called a point-in-time count, where they count all homeless people in the state on a given night.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Dr. Gail Christopher has been a crusader for better health outcomes in America, championing an idea that “place matters,” finding that the way people live in some communities puts them at a much higher risk for disease. 

What Feds' Push To Share Health Data Means For Patients

May 9, 2016

Two years ago, when the federal government first released data on how much Medicare paid physicians, the media coverage was widespread. Doctors who earned significant sums were dubbed "Medicare millionaires" and journalists highlighted unusual patterns in how some doctors bill for services.

CarbonNYC [in SF!] / Creative Commons

If your cabinets are filled with leftover prescription drugs, you'll have an opportunity to clean them out on Saturday. 

Casey Fleser / Creative Commons

Physicians, patients, and drug manufacturers are often at the center of discussions about pain and opioid abuse. But what about insurance providers? One Connecticut company said it's found a way to better manage pain, while reducing the number of prescribed opioids. 

A new initiative is working to create a data dashboard that almost any city could use to get a handle on the health of its citizens. City-level health data can be critical when it comes to measures like reducing smoking or deciding where to build new parks and health clinics. Yet most health data is collected at the county, not the city level. That means city leaders looking to improve residents’ health lack a baseline of information to work from.

If you're like most people in North America, you probably spend most of your time indoors. Leave home in the morning, drive to work, stay in your cube all day, head home again. Ninety percent of our lives are spent inside a built environment of some kind – ones that we share with millions of invisible microbes.

Scientists increasingly recognize that rooms and buildings have their own microbiomes, and that those microbial roommates may affect the health of human inhabitants. Those microbes vary depending on what city you're in, according to a study published Tuesday.