Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Washington state man becomes first U.S. coronavirus fatality

A Washington state man in his 50s with underlying health issues became the United States' first fatality from the coronavirus, officials said on Saturday, as the administration stepped up efforts to combat the spread of the global outbreak. The patient, who was chronically ill prior to contracting COVID-19, died at EvergreenHealth Hospital in Kirkland, near Seattle, and officials are unsure how he was exposed to the virus, said Jeffrey Duchin, head of the Washington health department's communicable disease unit.

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.

South Korea closes churches as coronavirus tally passes 3,700

Churches were closed in South Korea on Sunday, with many holding online services instead, as authorities fought to rein in public gatherings as 586 new coronavirus infections took the tally to 3,736 cases. That came a day after the biggest daily jump of 813 cases in South Korea's battle with the largest virus outbreak outside China, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said. The death toll rose to 20, up from 17 the day before.

Schools, universities to stay shut as coronavirus death toll rises

Schools and universities will stay closed for a second consecutive week in three northern Italian regions in an effort to contain Europe's worst outbreak of coronavirus, dashing any hopes of a swift return to normality. The decision was taken as the death toll from the contagion rose by eight during the day to 29, while the total number of cases jumped by 240 to 1,128 -- the vast majority in the wealthy regions of Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna.

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Indonesia's frontline hospital defends policies to tackle coronavirus

Indonesia has the resources to cope with a coronavirus outbreak, the director of its leading infectious diseases hospital said, defending detection procedures in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 260 million, where no cases have been reported. The world's fourth most populous nation has tested 141 suspected cases, a small figure for its population, sparking concern among some medical professionals of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases.

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As coronavirus slams , 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 's quarantined "red zone" where the disease broke out a week ago.

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.

Mainland China adds 573 coronavirus infections, eyes risks abroad

Mainland China reported the biggest daily rise in coronavirus cases since Feb. 22 on Sunday as more infections emerged among prison inmates in the epicenter of the outbreak, but officials emphasized the overall situation continues to improve. A total of 573 news infections were reported on Feb. 29, compared with 427 a day earlier, according to the National Health Commission. Some 565 of these were in Wuhan, where the outbreak emerged late last year.

Brazil confirms second case of new coronavirus: Health Ministry

Brazil's Health Ministry on Saturday confirmed the country's second case of the fast-spreading new coronavirus, diagnosed in a 32-year-old patient in São Paulo who had recently visited and arrived on Thursday. The man returned to São Paulo accompanied by his wife and wore a mask during the flight from Milan, according to additional information on the case released by the ministry after a brief statement earlier.

Gatherings banned, travel restricted as coronavirus cases grow worldwide

Leaders in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas rolled out bans on big gatherings and stricter travel restrictions as cases of the new coronavirus spread around the world. The United States on Saturday reported its first death from the disease, a man in his 50s in Washington state, where officials said two of the state's three cases have links to a nursing home with dozens of residents showing disease symptoms.

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