Rebecca Hersher

Rebecca Hersher is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.

Hersher was part of the NPR team that won a Peabody award for coverage of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and produced a story from Liberia that won an Edward R. Murrow award for use of sound. She was a finalist for the 2017 Daniel Schorr prize; a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting fellow, reporting on sanitation in Haiti; and a 2015 NPR Above the Fray fellow, investigating the causes of the suicide epidemic in Greenland.

Prior to working at NPR, Hersher reported on biomedical research and pharmaceutical news for Nature Medicine.

Hurricane Harvey flooded more than a dozen Superfund toxic waste sites when it devastated the Texas coast in late August. An EPA report predicted the possibility of climate-related problems at toxic waste sites like those in Texas, but the page detailing the report on the agency's website was made inactive months before the storm.

Flu symptoms can be more severe when you're pregnant, landing women in the hospital, threatening their lives and even leading to preterm birth or miscarriage. The virus is a risk to the woman and the baby.

So, it's particularly important that people who are pregnant get the flu vaccine. And it's also important that the effects of those vaccines be studied in pregnant women.

When Alexia Boggs was applying to law school, she initially considered all the big specialties, but none of them seemed quite right.

"I was looking for a field of law where none of my family could ever seek my help," she says, sarcastic but also not really joking.

On the first sunny day in Houston after about 50 inches of rain, residents in the east Houston community of Manchester emerged from their homes and gave thanks that their neighborhood had been spared in the floods. "Mama, yeah, I just feel blessed," said 73-year-old Maria Julia Rodriguez, standing in her driveway in late August and marveling at her luck. "God was looking out for us, I guess."

Medical workers in Houston are dealing with a secondary problem after last week's floods: Clinics that offer methadone and other opioid addiction therapies are just getting back up and running, and many people don't have access to the treatments they need.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. ET

Officials are still trying to confirm whether Texas floodwaters have spread contamination from decades-old toxic waste sites, as water recedes and residents return to homes that, in some cases, were flooded with water that passed over known contaminated areas.

In northeast Houston, grocery stores are boarded up. Gas stations are closed. Streets are covered in a thin layer of dusty mud.

And, on block after block, homes are full of people; some returning after harrowing rescues and frustrating nights in shelters, others who never escaped their apartments as the water rose.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Some people have stayed in their homes, and that's been difficult, too, especially in low-income neighborhoods in east Houston. NPR's Rebecca Hersher talked to people there who are struggling to get the basics, like food, water and information.

Among the most pressing medical needs facing Houston at the moment: getting people to dialysis treatment.

At DaVita Med Center Dialysis on Tuesday afternoon, nurses tended to dozens of patients on dialysis machines while another 100 people waited their turn. Some were clearly uncomfortable, and a number said they hadn't been dialyzed in four days.

Those delays can be life-threatening.

Erica Brown called 911 for two days before a helicopter finally spotted her, trapped in her Houston home with her 7-month-old son and three other children. Sometimes when she called, she got nothing, just a busy signal and a disconnection. Multiple times she was told that they'd try to send help. Hours would go by with no rescue.

The family spent two nights in their trailer watching the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise up the foundation. "It was a hard feeling because I thought me and my kids were going to lose our life in this hurricane disaster."

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