Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Hospital births far safer for U.S. newborns than home births

Newborns in the U.S. are much more likely to survive a hospital delivery than a planned home birth, regardless of how qualified the attending midwife may be, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at mortality rates within 30 days of birth for newborns who were delivered by midwives, either at home or in a hospital, between 2010 and 2017.

First coronavirus death in U.S. reported in Washington state

Washington state health officials reported the first patient death from coronavirus in the United States on Saturday, according to a news release, as federal and local health officials scramble to contain the rapidly spreading disease. Health officials in King County, Washington said they would provide an update on the patient who died at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time (2100 GMT), and that the patient was among one of the state's new cases of the disease.

FDA to allow some labs to use coronavirus tests prior to review

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday said it will allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus in the country. The policy cleared the way for state public health labs to immediately begin local testing and possibly get results within hours, which public health officials say will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China.

Global downturn looms as countries struggle to contain coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus spread further on Friday, with cases reported for the first time in at least six countries across four 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.

Mainland China, excluding Hubei, reports lowest new daily infections

Mainland China - excluding Hubei province where the new coronavirus outbreak originated - reported four new cases of infection on Friday, the lowest since the national health authority started compiling nationwide data in January. The central province of Hubei reported 423 new confirmed cases on Friday, the National Health Commission said on Saturday, up from 318 a day earlier.

Iran calls on people to stay at home as death toll rises to 43

Deaths in Iran from coronavirus have hit 43, the highest number outside China, and the total number of infected people has risen to 593, an Iranian health official said on Saturday. The country is at the epicenter of the outbreak in the region, with several countries in the Middle East reporting cases of the coronavirus stemming from Iran.

United Kingdom has 19 confirmed coronavirus cases

The United Kingdom now has 19 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus after Wales identified its first case and two new cases were found in England, health authorities said on Friday. "The total number of UK cases is 19," the health ministry said.

New York scrambles to replace U.S. government's faulty coronavirus test kits

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation's most populous city. New York state's Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process.

Extended-release drugs could be costing U.S. healthcare system billions

If doctors prescribed short-acting medications that must be taken twice a day instead of once-a-day extended-release versions, billions in healthcare costs could be saved, a new study suggests. Based on Medicare and Medicaid spending between 2012 and 2017, prescriptions for extended-release drugs cost the healthcare system almost $14 billion more than would have been spent on equivalent twice-a-day medications, researchers report in JAMA Network Open.