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Health Highlights: March 24, 2020


Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

China to Lift Lockdown on Wuhan, Origin of COVID-19 Pandemic

The lockdown of the city of Wuhan -- where the global coronavirus pandemic started -- will be lifted on April 8, China says.

That will be more than two months after the capital of Hubei province was first sealed off in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus, CNN reported.

Lockdowns of other cities in Hubei province will be lifted Wednesday, provincial officials said Tuesday.

There had been no new coronavirus cases in Hubei for five consecutive days from March 19, compared with thousands of new cases a day in February. On Tuesday, the province reported one new coronavirus case in Wuhan, a doctor at the Hubei General Hospital, CNN reported.

Hubei has had the majority of infections and deaths in China, with 67,801 cases and 3,160 deaths reported as of Monday.

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Man Dies After Self-Medicating With Chloroquine to Treat Coronavirus

An Arizona man has died and his wife is in critical condition after they took chloroquine phosphate to treat themselves for the novel coronavirus, the hospital system Banner Health says.

Chloroquine is approved in the United States to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but President Donald Trump has promoted it as a possible treatment for COVID-19, CNN reported.

Chloroquine is also "an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks," Banner Health said in a statement. It didn't provide any details about how the Phoenix couple, both in their 60s, acquired the chloroquine.

The statement said that "within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital," CNN reported.

Chloroquine and other "inappropriate medications and household products" -- "should not be ingested to treat or prevent this virus," Banner Health warned.

"Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus," Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in the statement, CNN reported. "But self-medicating is not the way to do so."

Trump has touted chloroquine and the closely-related hydroxychloroquine as potential treatments against COVID-19.

He promoted the notion at a news briefing on Friday, and again in a Saturday tweet.

"HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine," Trump tweeted Saturday.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, quickly qualified those assertions. Speaking at the same Friday news briefing, Fauci said there was only "anecdotal evidence" that chloroquine might work against the new coronavirus, and much more study was needed.

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Shortages Seen of Drugs That Show Promise Against Coronavirus

Strong demand for medications that show promise as treatments for coronavirus have led to shortages of those drugs in the United States.

The antiviral drug remedisivir is one of those medications. It's made by California-based Gilead Sciences, which noted "an exponential increase in compassionate use requests. This has flooded an emergency treatment access system," CBS News reported.

That overwhelming demand forced the company to put remdesivir on hold for compassionate use.

Another drug that's shown promise against coronavirus is hydroxychloroquine, and lupus patients who rely on the drug are now facing dangerous shortages.

"If people without symptoms are hoarding this medication, it means many lives may potentially be lost," Brooklyn Dr. Jinesh Patel told CBS News.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowing more testing of drugs that may be effective against the coronavirus, and those on the front lines of the battle against the pandemic are eager for such testing to begin.

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University Students in Florida Test Positive for Coronavirus After Spring Break

The University of Tampa says at least five of its students have tested positive for coronavirus after spring break.

Last Friday, the university said a student who lives off-campus tested positive for the virus. A day later, the university confirmed that five students who traveled with a large group of students during spring break had tested positive, CBS News reported.

On March 17, the university moved all of its classes online, but some students still had close contact with each other during the spring break and in the university's residential halls, which remained open.

Many Americans have ignored recommendations to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, including crowds of spring break revelers in Florida, CBS News reported.

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