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What We're Reading: Roots of Chinese Illness Discovered; Birth Costs Soar; Public Health Emergency in Puerto Rico


A new coronavirus may be to blame for a pneumonia outbreak in China; costs to give birth increase, even with employer coverage; HHS declares a public health emergency in Puerto Rico after a devasting earthquake.

WHO Traces Chinese Illness to New Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced a potential cause of mysterious cases of pneumonia in the Chinese city of Wuhan as stemming from a new coronavirus. WHO said the Chinese government is confirming the explanation, but the government has not yet made an official statement, reported STAT. The illness has infected at least 59 people. Experts urge the country to share more information regarding the outbreak in order to effectively address concerns of travelers to the region.

Cost of Giving Birth Spikes, Even With Employer Coverage

A study published by Health Affairs looking at employer-provided health insurance of more than 650,000 women found that from 2007 to 2015, there was a 50% increase in new mothers’ out-of-pocket expenses for birth. According to an article by CBS News, a new mother spent just over $3000 out of pocket in 2007, compared to $4500 in 2015, the most recent year data was available. This jump is over 3 times the rate of inflation of that time period. “The cost of one birth—in itself the most common reason for a woman to be hospitalized in her lifetime—is now more than the typical woman earns in a month. The average full-time worker in America makes just over $41,000 a year, or around $3,400 a month, according to the U.S. Labor Department,” authors said.

HHS Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency in Puerto Rico Following Earthquakes

HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico, following a series of earthquakes this week. The most severe earthquake reached a magnitude of 6.4 and was the strongest one to hit the island in over 100 years, according to the BBC. The announcement follows Governor Wanda Vazquez’s declaration of a state of emergency for the island issued Tuesday.

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