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Health Highlights: Birth center costs, teen sex, a West Nile death

Hands holding one week old baby boy.
Hands holding one week old baby boy.
Leanne Temme/Getty Images

This week's health stories are a reminder to stay vigilant - about the threat of West Nile virus and the need to buy health insurance. They're also a reminder that more information is better - when you're considering birthing facilities and when talking to teenagers about sex.

Tell me what you think of 'em, and let me know what you're reading this week!

Readers respond: Birth centers should be 'more available option'

This week on this blog and on Take Two, I delved into the cost of having a child at a birthing center.

I explained that it could definitely be cost-effective, at a societal level, for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth outside of the hospital. But I pointed out that it's harder to determine whether individual mamas will save money using a birthing center.

Several of you responded and shared your experiences with the cost of birthing centers.

First West Nile death a reminder to be vigilant

State health officials announced on Monday California's first death from West Nile virus this year. While it's unclear whether it is a harbinger of more fatal cases to come, health officials say the death is a reminder to be vigilant against the disease.

West Nile is transmitted through mosquito bites. Here's how you can protect yourself and your family:

IRS: 7.5 million Americans paid penalty for lack of health coverage

Back in January, the federal government predicted that between 3 million and 6 million households would have to pay a penalty for not having health insurance in 2014.

The estimate was low: This week, the Internal Revenue Service said about 7.5 million Americans paid an average penalty of $200 for not having insurance last year, Phil Galewitz reports for NPR.

This was the first year most Americans were required to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The penalty for not having it: 1 percent of annual 2014 income or $95 per adult, whichever is greater.

American teens are having much less sex

Less than half of high school students are having sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a drop from past decades: In the 80s, about 60 percent of boys and 51 percent of girls reported being sexually active.

Why the decline? Ahna Suleiman, coordinating director at UC Berkeley's Center on the Developing Adolescent, told Take Two she's not surprised by the number:

"There's a lot more access now through the media. Young people can access sexual health information on their smartphones ... While it seems a little counterintuitive, having more information [gives] them the resources to make informed sexual decisions and delay sex until they’re ready."

She says the old 'just say no' method proved to be largely ineffective with young adults, Austin Cross writes.

Which consumer health stories are you reading this week? Let me know in the comments section below or ping me on Twitter.