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Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2020

Last Updated: February 20, 2020.

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

First Coronavirus Death Reported in South Korea

The first new coronavirus-related death in South Korea was reported on Thursday.

The South Korean man, believed to be about 63 years old, died at a hospital on Wednesday and tests conducted after his death were positive for the virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Associated Press reported.

Officials also confirmed 22 additional cases of the virus in South Korea, bringing the total to 104. Twenty-one of those new cases were in and around the southeastern city of Daegu.

On Thursday, the mayor of the city urged its 2.5 million inhabitants to stay home and wear masks even indoors if possible, the AP reported.

The death in South Korea is the ninth confirmed from the new coronavirus outside mainland China, with other deaths in France, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan.

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Pregnant Women Who Take Macrolide Antibiotics Have Increased Risk of Birth Defects: Study

A slightly increased risk of birth defects was found among women who took macrolide antibiotics early in pregnancy, a new study shows.

Researchers analyzed data from 104,605 children who were born in the U.K. between 1990 and 2016 and whose mothers were prescribed either macrolides or penicillin during pregnancy, CNN reported.

The rate of major birth defects among women who took macrolides during the first three months of pregnancy was 28 per 1,000 births, compared with 18 per 1,000 births among those who took penicillin.

Specifically, the risk of heart defects was higher in women who took macrolides, but they did not have a higher risk of neurodevelopmental birth defects than those who took penicillin, CNN reported.

There was no increased risk of birth defects among women who took macrolides before pregnancy, according to the study published Feb. 19 in the journal BMJ.

Macrolides -- which include erythromycin, clarithromycin and azithromycin -- are often prescribed for patients who are allergic to penicillin. They are among the most widely used antibiotics in Western countries, the researchers noted.

Based on the findings, pregnant women and their doctors should consider using alternatives to macrolides, depending on the type of infection, said study co-author Ruth Gilbert, a professor at University College London, CNN reported.

But pregnant women shouldn't avoid all antibiotics, Gilbert warned.

"If you've got a bacterial infection, it's really important to take antibiotics because infection itself can be really damaging to the unborn baby," Gilbert said.

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Woman Plays Violin During Brain Surgery

A U.K. woman played her violin during her brain tumor surgery.

Dagmar Turner, 53, is a violinist with the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra and a number of choral societies. Before her surgery, doctors at King's College Hospital in London mapped her brain to pinpoint areas that are active when she plays the violin and those that control language and movement, the Associated Press reported.

Midway through the surgery, Turner was wakened and asked to her play her violin to "ensure the surgeons did not damage any crucial areas of the brain that controlled Dagmar's delicate hand movements,″ according to the hospital.

"We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar, so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play,″ Prof. Keyoumars Ashkan, Turner's neurosurgeon, said, the AP reported.

"We managed to remove over 90% of the tumor, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand," Ashkan said.

Turner left the hospital three days after her surgery and hopes to make a quick return to her orchestra, the AP reported.


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