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Michaeleen Doucleff

Michaeleen Doucleff is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk. She reports for the radio and the Web for NPR's global health and development blog, Goats and Soda. Doucleff focuses on disease outbreaks, drug development, and trends in global health.

In 2014, Doucleff was part of the team that earned a George Foster Peabody award for its coverage of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. For the series, Doucleff reported on how the epidemic ravaged maternal health and how the virus spreads through the air. In 2015, Doucleff and Senior Producer Jane Greenhalgh reported on the extreme prejudices faced by young women in Nepal when they're menstruating. Their story was the second most popular one on the NPR website in 2015 and contributed to the NPR series on 15-year-old girls around the world, which won two Gracie Awards.

As a science journalist, Doucleff has reported on a broad range of topics, from vaccination fears and the microbiome to beer biophysics and dog psychology.

Before coming to NPR in 2012, Doucleff was an editor at the journal Cell, where she wrote about the science behind pop culture. Doucleff has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Berkeley, California, and a master's degree in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis.

Back in the fall, Tom Wenseleers made a bold claim on Twitter. He tweeted that the new coronavirus variant emerging in the U.K. was more transmissible — or could spread more quickly — than over versions of the virus.

"I posted a graph [on Twitter] showing the U.K. variant had a transmission advantage over the other types of the virus," says Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Video by Xueying Chang, Kaz Fantone, Michaeleen Doucleff and Ben de la Cruz/NPR / YouTube

When will the pandemic end? How many more COVID-19 waves will the U.S. go through?

India is in the midst of a devastating second wave of COVID-19. For the past several weeks, cases and deaths have skyrocketed. The country is recording more than a quarter million cases per day.

In movies such as Contagion, a pandemic begins in a flash. A deadly virus spills over from an animal, like a pig, into humans and then quickly triggers an outbreak.

But that's not actually what happens, says Dr. Gregory Gray at the Duke Global Health Institute. "It's not like in the movies," he says, "where this virus goes from a pig in Indonesia and causes a pandemic."

This week, the World Health Organization finally released its long-awaited report about its investigation into how and where the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Although the main conclusions were roughly what the agency had already reported to the media, deep inside the 300-page paper there are tantalizing nuggets of information about the early days of the pandemic. And these points haven't yet been widely reported.

In particular, there's some juicy new evidence about where the virus came from — and how COVID was circulating widely through Wuhan before December 2019.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Tuesday after the World Health Organization report was released.

The highly anticipated World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic was released on Tuesday.

According to the report, data suggests that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was not the original source of the outbreak.

When the pandemic began last year, scientists went looking for the origins of the coronavirus. Right away, they made a huge discovery. It looked like the virus jumped from a bat into humans.

Now, scientists are worried that another coronavirus will strike again, from either a bat or some other animal. So they've gone hunting for potential sources — and the news is a bit concerning.

It was a simple experiment. Lucia Alcala, a psychologist, built a tiny model grocery store with aisles and different items that she could put on a family's dining room table.

She and her colleagues brought the model store to 43 family's homes along California's Central Coast. Each family had a pair of siblings, ages 6 to 10.

Back in the spring of last year, a 45-year-old man went to the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston because of a coronavirus infection. Doctors treated him with steroids and discharged him five days later.

OK. So what in the heck is going on with all these variants? Why is everyone so worried? And how do they work?

To answer these questions, let's go back in time to January 2020, when we were all blissfully going about our lives, eating in restaurants, cramming into elevators at work and dancing at house parties on the weekends.

Back then, the coronavirus looked a bit like this (well, not really, but if it was made of Legos, it would look like this).

New coronavirus variants seem to be cropping up everywhere. There's one from the U.K., which is more contagious and already circulating in the United States. There's one from South Africa, which is forcing Moderna and Pfizer to reformulate their COVID-19 vaccines and create "booster" shots, just to make sure the vaccines maintain their efficacies.

Back in April, COVID-19 hit the city of Manaus, Brazil, extremely hard. In fact, the outbreak there was arguably the worst in the world. One study, published in the journal Science, estimated that so many people were infected that the city could have reached herd immunity — that the outbreak there slowed down because up to 76% of the population had protection against the virus.

Updated Friday Jan. 15, 7:35 p.m.

A highly contagious version of the coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports Friday.

A new variant of the coronavirus is sweeping through England. At the same time, the country is reporting a record-high number of COVID-19 cases – nearly 40,000 on Wednesday — as well as surges in hospitalizations and deaths. In London last week, an estimated 2% of people in private households tested positive for the coronavirus, The Independent reported.

So the big question is: Are these events connected? Is the new variant causing this surge?

A new variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in England and raising international alarms. This new variant now accounts for more than 60% of the cases in London. And scientists say the variant is likely more contagious than previous versions of the virus.

COVID-19 is now the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. for 2020. The virus has killed more than 90 people per 100,000, reports Johns Hopkins University.

But in other parts of the world, the virus hasn't been such a big problem. It's not a top killer. Some global health experts are beginning to ask whether immunizing large swaths of the population is the best use of resources for these countries.

This week, the world heard encouraging news about a vaccine for COVID-19.

On Monday, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, and its partner BioNTech, said their experimental vaccine appears to work – and work quite well. A preliminary analysis suggests the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms.

Health officials hope to start vaccinating some Americans in a few months.

Rich countries are rapidly claiming the world's lion's share of future doses of COVID-19 vaccine, creating deep inequalities in global distribution.

Despite an international agreement to allocate the vaccine equitably around the world, billions of people in poor and middle-income countries might not be immunized until 2023 or even 2024, researchers at Duke University predict.

As wildfires raged up and down the Pacific Coast last month, families across California and Oregon lived in – and breathed in — smoky, toxic air for weeks. Many days, the region's air quality ranked among the worst in the world.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, air travel looked like a risky endeavor. Some scientists even worried that airplanes could be sites of superspreading events. For example, in March a Vietnamese businesswoman with a sore throat and a cough boarded a flight in London. Ten hours later, she landed in Hanoi, Vietnam; she infected 15 people on the flight, including more than half of the passengers sitting with her in business class.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Editor's note: There has been speculation in the media and via Twitter that DNA fragments of the now-defunct 1918 flu pathogen could be preserved under the permafrost and might pose a potential threat to humans if the warming Earth continues to melt layers of frozen soil. A couple of years ago, NPR investigated that question: Could this pathogen — and others — be revived? A version of this story originally ran in January 2018.

Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

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.

Welcome to parenthood! For many of us, parenthood is like being air-dropped into a foreign land, where protohumans rule and communication is performed through cryptic screams and colorful fluids. And to top it off, in this new world, sleep is like gold: precious and rare. (Oh, so precious.)

Throughout human history, children were typically raised in large, extended families filled with aunts, uncles, grannies, grandpas and siblings. Adding another baby to the mix didn't really make a big dent.

Imagine for a minute: A company makes a vaccine that protects kids from a life-threatening disease but, with little warning, decides to stop selling it in the U.S.

That's exactly what happened last year in West Africa, for a vaccine against rotavirus — a disease that kills about 200,000 young children and babies each year.

Six years ago, I was traveling in India, working on a story about measles. I was visiting a public hospital in New Delhi, when I walked into the waiting room and saw the tiniest baby I had ever seen.

An elderly woman — perhaps a grandma — was cradling the newborn in her arms. The little baby was wrapped in a blanket, and a tiny knit cap covered her head, which wasn't much bigger than a small orange. The newborn could not have weighed more than four pounds.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved one of the most sought after vaccines in recent decades. It's the world's first vaccine to prevent dengue fever — a disease so painful that its nickname is "breakbone fever."

The vaccine, called Dengvaxia, is aimed at helping children in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories where dengue is a problem.

Is it possible to raise children without shouting, scolding — or even talking to kids with an angry tone?

Last month, we wrote about supermoms up in the Arctic who pulled off this daunting task with ease. They use a powerful suite of tools, which includes storytelling, playful dramas and many questions.

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