Pien Huang

Pien Huang is a global health and development reporter on the Science desk. She was NPR's first Reflect America Fellow, working with shows, desks and podcasts to bring more diverse voices to air and online.

She's a former producer for WBUR/NPR's On Point and was a 2018 Environmental Reporting Fellow with The GroundTruth Project at WCAI in Cape Cod, covering the human impact on climate change. As a freelance audio and digital reporter, Huang's stories on the environment, arts and culture have been featured on NPR, the BBC and PRI's The World.

Huang's experiences span categories and continents. She was executive producer of Data Made to Matter, a podcast from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and was also an adjunct instructor in podcasting and audio journalism at Northeastern University. She worked as a project manager for public artist Ralph Helmick to help plan and execute The Founder's Memorial in Abu Dhabi and with Stoltze Design to tell visual stories through graphic design. Huang has traveled with scientists looking for signs of environmental change in Cameroon's frogs, in Panama's plants and in the ocean water off the ice edge of Antarctica. She has a degree in environmental science and public policy from Harvard.

As the new coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, researchers say the virus is changing its genetic makeup slightly. But does that mean it is becoming more dangerous to humans? And what would the impact be on any future vaccines?

The fact that the novel coronavirus appeared in the middle of flu season has prompted inevitable comparisons. Is COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, pretty much similar to the flu or does it pose a far greater threat?

Although there are still many unknowns about COVID-19, there is some solid information from researchers that sheds light on some of the similarities and differences at this time.

Symptoms

On Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, user 一只猫叫鱼Yu kept a public diary of her lockdown experience in Wuhan, China. On day 29, she described losing track of time. "I watch the days go by one after another," she wrote. "I don't know how long days like this are going to last."

Updated on March 17 at 5:06 p.m. ET

Mild.

Moderate.

Serious.

Severe or extreme.

These are some of the adjectives being used to describe the symptoms displayed by patients with COVID-19. Vice President Pence used them in his remarks to the nation last week:

"Some — some large percentage have mild flu symptoms; some have serious flu symptoms."

Keep your distance. And don't kiss.

Those are two pieces of advice that could be crucial in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

Public health officials say the spread has been mainly driven through people spending time indoors with others who have the disease.

"Looks like the main driver is not widespread community infection — looks like it's household-level infection," Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the World Health Organization, said at a news conference in Geneva on Feb. 25.

Updated Feb. 21, 11:46 a.m. ET

Last month, a British man went to a conference in Singapore, then on a ski trip to the French Alps.

What he didn't know when he arrived in the Alps was that he was infected with the virus behind the COVID-19 outbreak.

During his stay at a ski village, it appears he infected 11 other people, who subsequently traveled on to the U.K. and Spain, the World Health Organization says.

Updated on March 6 at 3:45 p.m.

It's the season for colds and flus — and a newly identified respiratory disease, COVID-19.

To cut your risk of catching a respiratory illness on your next flight, experts offer two pieces of common-sense advice: Wash your hands frequently and keep a distance from people who are sick.

Where to sit to prevent getting sick

A 2018 study suggests that to minimize contact with other passengers, you should pick a window seat and stay put.

Like Ebola virus in Africa and the Nipah virus in Asia, the new coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — appears to have originated in bats.

Chinese researchers took samples of the coronavirus from patients in Wuhan, the city in central China where the outbreak was first detected.

They compared the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus — 2019-nCoV — to a library of known viruses and found a 96% match with a coronavirus found in horseshoe bats in southwest China. The findings were published in a study in Nature this week.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. ET

Public health officials around the world were responding to the fast-growing outbreak of the new coronavirus, as officials in China, at the epidemic's epicenter, announced that the number of cases there had reached nearly 6,000.

The World Health Organization announced that it would send international health experts to China to help understand the outbreak and guide the response.

Updated at 12:26 p.m. ET

Saturday's Lunar New Year celebrations were dampened in China by fears over the coronavirus outbreak and travel restrictions affecting 46 million people.

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, China's President Xi Jinping stressed the urgency of controlling the outbreak — which has seen hundreds more confirmed cases since Friday — and urged state authorities to prioritize containment efforts.

The discovery of the new coronavirus has transformed cities in China and neighboring countries.

The impact is strongest in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus — a city of 11 million that is now under lockdown.

Other Asian cities, from Manila to Seoul, are also feeling the effect. Photographers are documenting the way life has changed since the discovery of 2019-nCoV.

"I don't feel in the Chinese New Year mood at all this year," a netizen with username 朱一龙qwertyuiop416 posted this week on Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter. "I'm panicking. I'm getting more scared every day."

That sentiment reflects a trend on Chinese social media as confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus surge.

Initially, there was some lightheartedness in posts. One Weibo user commented it was "the perfect time" to stay home and play a mobile phone game called Plague Inc.

Updated on Jan. 17 at 2 p.m.

Three U.S. airports will begin screening passengers from Wuhan, China, for symptoms of the new strain of coronavirus — named 2019-nCoV — that has been discovered in China.

O'Plerou Grebet is a 22-year-old graphic design student in Ivory Coast. Everywhere he looks, he sees signs of Western influence — from the glass skyscrapers and malls lining the streets in his home city of Abidjan to the way his peers spoke and dressed.

"We are living like we're Western people," he says. "It's like we are not proud of our own culture."

That even applies to the symbols he texts to friends using the messaging apps on his phone (they especially love to use the "tears of joy" face emoji, he says).

2019 is a record year for dengue fever in Latin America. The mosquito-borne disease has surged across the continent, from Mexico down to Chile and Argentina, with nearly 3 million cases reported.

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