Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

'Risk is very high,' warns WHO, as coronavirus wipes $6 trillion off markets

The coronavirus spread further on Friday, with cases reported for the first time in six countries across three continents, battering markets and leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise its impact risk alert to "very high." Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered.

As coronavirus slams Italy, paralysis and anxiety spread

At the epicenter of Europe's worst outbreak of coronavirus to date, daily lives have taken on an eerie, aimless calm. It's at night that the worry takes over. "You can hear the ambulances coming and going, and maybe they're going to sick people who have nothing to do with the coronavirus but it worries you just the same," said Davide Benelli from his home in Casalpusterlengo, a town of around 15,000 in Italy's quarantined "red zone" where the disease broke out a week ago.

Paraguay dengue fever death toll rises to 34

The death toll from a dengue fever outbreak in Paraguay rose to 34, the Public Health Ministry said on Friday, warning that the virus is spreading beyond the capital Asuncion. The number of fatalities was up from 20 last week, officials said. Confirmed cases spiked to 137,000 from 100,000 in the South American country of 6.8 million people.

Biotech group Novacyt announces deals for coronavirus test product

Biotechnology company Novacyt on Friday announced deals for its "Primerdesign" product which is aimed at testing for the coronavirus currently afflicting China and other parts of the world. Novacyt said it had signed its first major distribution agreement for the COVID-19 coronavirus test with a global life sciences company to supply the test to two Asian territories outside mainland China, sending its shares to record highs.

El Salvador bans entries of travelers from Iran, citing coronavirus

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele said on Friday that migration authorities will be ordered to deny entry to travelers arriving from Iran, a health measure intended to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Bukele said on Twitter that Salvadorans and diplomats arriving from the Middle Eastern country, which has one of the largest outbreaks outside China, will have to spend 30 days in quarantine. El Salvador has no reported cases of coronavirus.

Iran rejects BBC Persian report of at least 210 coronavirus deaths

The fast-spreading coronavirus has killed at least 210 people across Iran, the BBC's Persian service reported on Friday, citing hospital sources, far more than reported by the Health Ministry which put the number at 34. Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur rejected the BBC report in a tweet. Even at 34, Iran has had the highest death rate from the outbreak outside China.

Coronavirus now poses 'very high' risk at global level: WHO

The risk of a global spread and impact of the coronavirus is now "very high", the highest level of alarm, but containment is still possible, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it would be a "big mistake" to switch from a public health strategy of containment to mitigation, where authorities accept the virus is spreading.

U.S. to invoke powers to boost output of protective gear for coronavirus fight

The United States will invoke special powers to boost production of masks, gloves, gowns and other items to combat the coronavirus, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Friday, as the Trump administration came under criticism from Democrats for its response to the crisis. With more countries reporting new infections, companies starting to curtail employees' travel and global stock markets on the precipice of a free fall, U.S. health officials scrambled to deal with the prospect of a widening domestic outbreak.

Google employee who was at Zurich office tests positive for coronavirus

An employee of Alphabet Inc's Google, who had been in the Zurich office, has tested positive for coronavirus, the company said on Friday. "The Zurich office, like all other offices, remains open", a Google spokesperson said.

New coronavirus cases in mainland China fall to lowest since January

Mainland China had 327 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections on Thursday, the country's National Health Commission said on Friday, down from 433 cases a day earlier and the lowest since Jan. 23. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in mainland China so far to 78,824.