Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Explainer: Rapid spread of China coronavirus fuels global alarm

International alarm over the coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China in December is driven by its rapid spread and the fact that infectious disease experts cannot yet know how deadly or contagious it is. Within weeks, the virus has infected nearly 8,000 people in China and killed 170.

Trump admin to try letting states limit Medicaid benefits

The Trump administration on Thursday said it will test allowing state Medicaid programs to limit health benefits and prescription drug coverage for some patients in return for changing how federal government contributions to the states are made. Medicaid plans currently pay for most prescription drugs. The new approach would align their coverage with that of many private health plans and Medicare prescription drug plans that typically use the threat of excluding a drug from coverage to seek lower prices from manufacturers.

If you feel you can't breathe, don't expect virtual assistants to call for help

Virtual digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant could potentially provide users with reliable and relevant information during medical emergencies, but their current incarnations aren't quite up to the job, a new study suggests. In an experiment, the four leading virtual digital assistants (VDAs) were queried aloud about first aid for a range of health situations. Even when the virtual assistant understood the question, the answers were often off the mark, researchers report in BMJ Innovations.

Fatal traffic crashes spike after switch to Daylight Saving Time

Fatal traffic accidents are more common right after clocks spring ahead for Daylight Saving Time than at other times of the year, a U.S. study suggests. Researchers examined data on 732,835 fatal motor vehicle accidents between 1996 and 2017 and found the risk of these events was about 6% higher in the week after the springtime shift to Daylight Saving Time. If clocks didn't change, it might prevent 28 fatal car crashes a year, the study team estimates in Current Biology.

U.S. EPA reaffirms that glyphosate does not cause cancer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday it finished a regulatory review that found glyphosate, the most widely used weed killer in the United States, is not a carcinogen. The conclusion reaffirms the agency's stance on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Bayer AG's Roundup, despite judgments by U.S. juries that have found that use of the weedkiller was responsible for plaintiffs' cancer in some trials.

U.S. confirms its first person-to-person coronavirus transmission

The husband of an Illinois woman diagnosed with coronavirus after returning from a trip to China has also become infected, marking the first known person-to-person transmission of the disease within the United States, health authorities said on Thursday. The latest Illinois case brought the tally of confirmed U.S. coronavirus infections to six, none fatal, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), as the number of Americans potentially exposed to the virus and placed under medical observation continued to rise.

U.S. warns citizens against travel to China as virus toll tops 200

The U.S. government warned Americans not to travel to China as the death toll from a new coronavirus reached 213 on Friday and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency. A new State Department travel advisory raised the warning for China to the same level as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Stimulant overdoses rising in the U.S

Fatal overdoses involving cocaine and other stimulants like methamphetamine have been rising in the U.S. in recent years, and many deaths involve the use of these drugs along with at least one opioid. As of 2016, 27% of cocaine overdoses and 14% of stimulant overdoses treated in U.S. emergency rooms also involved an opioid, researchers report in the journal Addiction. And, in 2017, almost 75% of overdose deaths involving cocaine and half involving stimulants also involved at least one opioid.

Health workers may not use hand sanitizer properly

Healthcare workers may not be using the right amount of hand sanitizer or letting it dry on their hands long enough to achieve maximum protection against the spread of germs, a recent study suggests. Researchers did lab tests to see how long different amounts of gel and foam versions of alcohol-based hand sanitizer took to dry on nine volunteers' hands. In the test of 0.75-milliliter, 1.5ml, 2.25ml and 3ml dollops, smaller amounts of sanitizer sometimes dried within the 20-30 second time frame recommended by the World Health Organization for optimal effectiveness, but none of the products dried that fast when the largest amounts were used.

Trump launches coronavirus task force as U.S. readies more Wuhan evacuations

The Trump administration launched a task force with a brief to protect the United States from the fast-spreading coronavirus, as the country prepared to evacuate more of its citizens from the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, China. In a statement on Thursday, the U.S. State Department said Washington would arrange extra evacuation flights from Wuhan with capacity for private U.S. citizens, on or about Feb. 3.