Reuters Health News Summary

Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

U.S. sues Mallinckrodt, accuses drugmaker of defrauding Medicaid

The United States sued a unit of the drugmaker Mallinckrodt Plc on Tuesday, accusing it of defrauding Medicaid out of hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of "meteoric" price increases for its biggest-selling drug, Acthar Gel. Joining a civil whistleblower lawsuit filed in Boston federal court, the government said Mallinckrodt ARD LLC violated the federal False Claims Act by withholding Medicaid rebates related to Acthar, which now costs nearly $40,000 per vial.

'False fears' about vaping stopping smokers using e-cigs: UK report

More than half of UK smokers now wrongly believe that nicotine-containing "vapes" or e-cigarettes are as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes and these "false fears" are preventing smokers from switching, public health experts said on Wednesday. In a report commissioned by the UK health agency Public Health England (PHE), scientists at King's College London said the mistaken belief that e-cigarettes are more harmful than smoking had gained ground rapidly following thousands of reported cases of lung injury in the United States in late 2019.

UK launches large-scale public advice campaign on coronavirus

The British government launched a wide-ranging public health campaign on Wednesday in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, a day after warnings that as many as one in five employees could be off work at the peak of the outbreak. The United Kingdom has so far had 51 confirmed cases of the virus, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was highly likely the number would rise.

'Perfect Storm': Washington virus deaths highlight risk at nursing homes

Less than a year after Constantine Valhouli moved his 85-year-old father into a Massachusetts elder-care facility, he is considering bringing his dad back home, his confidence rattled by a deadly coronavirus outbreak at a Washington state nursing home. The deaths of four residents at the LifeCare long-term care facility in Kirkland has stoked Valhouli's fears that the virus could spread quickly and quietly in facilities such as the home where his father resides after a series of strokes.

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Australian stores ration toilet paper amid coronavirus panic buying

Australia's major grocers put strict limits on purchases of toilet paper on Wednesday after a rush of panic buying related to coronavirus fears emptied shelves, as the country recorded its third case of local transmission of the disease. Australia was one of the first countries to take a hardline on tackling the outbreak, imposing border controls on visitors from the epidemic's epicenter in China a month ago.

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Coronavirus claims three more lives in Seattle-area as outbreak goes cross-country

Three more deaths from the coronavirus were reported by Washington state on Tuesday as the nation's largest and only fatal outbreak of the respiratory disease reached beyond the Seattle area in what appeared to be the first known instance of coast-to-coast transmission. A North Carolina resident tested positive after returning from a trip to Washington state, where the individual was exposed, and apparently infected, during a visit to a nursing facility at the center of a recent surge in cases in suburban Seattle.

Last Congo Ebola patient discharged with end of outbreak in sight

LONDON (Reuters) - The last patient being treated for Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, bringing the 19-month-old outbreak closer than ever to an end. The patient's release from hospital in the eastern city of Beni, feted by hospital staff who sang, danced and drummed on trash cans, marks the first time there have been no active cases since the outbreak was declared in August 2018.

Any U.S. citizen can be tested for coronavirus at doctor's orders under new guidance: Pence

Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that U.S. public health authorities had issued new guidance to make clear that a doctor's order was all that would be needed for any American to be tested for the novel coronavirus. "We're issuing new guidance, effective immediately, from the CDC that will make it clear that any clinician on health authority can administer the test," Pence told reporters at the White House, referring to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coronavirus more deadly than flu but containable: WHO's Tedros

About 3.4% of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, far above seasonal flu's fatality rate of under 1%, but the novel coronavirus can be contained, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, urged countries to prepare for patients with the virus turning up in their hospitals and ensure that health workers are protected.

WHO warns of global shortage of medical equipment to fight coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday warned of a global shortage and price gouging for protective equipment to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus and asked companies and governments to increase production by 40% as the death toll from the respiratory illness mounted. Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Tuesday in an emergency move to try to prevent a global recession and the World Bank announced $12 billion to help countries fight the coronavirus, which has taken a heavy toll on air travel, tourism and other industries, threatening global economic growth prospects.

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