Pien Huang | KGOU
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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.

This week, the question of mutation has been front and center in coverage of the coronavirus — from controversial claims about changes that make the virus more contagious to reassurances that any mutations are not yet consequential.

Here are some of the questions being raised — and what the specialists can (and can't yet) say to answer them.

Is the coronavirus mutating?

NPR's global health reporter answers listener questions about how the coronavirus is mutating.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Updated on May 19 at 8:51 a.m. ET

The World Health Organization describes its job as "the global guardian of health."

It is now possibly facing the most devastating global health threat in its 72-year history: the coronavirus pandemic. WHO is devoting hundreds of millions of dollars and an all-hands-on-deck approach to the effort to vanquish the virus.

And it is being accused of failing to uphold its mission.

The fight against coronavirus will not be won until every country in the world can control the disease. But not every country has the same ability to protect people.

Each week we answer some of your pressing questions about the coronavirus and how to stay safe. Email us your questions at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

Does the size of a viral dose make a difference? That is, if you're exposed to lots of viral particles, will you get sicker?

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

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

President Trump's plan to put a hold on U.S. funding for the World Health Organization during a global pandemic "is as dangerous as it sounds," says billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder joined others defending the WHO, which they say is doing vital work to fight COVID-19.

The coronavirus has plunged the world into a crisis that's being compared to World War II and the Great Depression. It's the worst time possible, Gates and others say, to take money away from the U.N. health agency.

Is it possible to be infected with the coronavirus and show no symptoms? Or go through a period of several days before symptoms kick in?

And even in this stage with no cough, no fever, no sign of illness, could you be transmitting the virus to others?

Coronavirus case counts are rising exponentially in Africa. Since the continent saw its first case, in Egypt in mid-February, some 10,000 cases and 500 deaths have been confirmed.

In communities where most coronavirus tests are coming back positive, it's a sign there are many more cases there that haven't been found, say World Health Organization officials in a press conference on Monday.

"If 80-90% of the people test positive, you are probably missing a lot of cases," says Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.

Stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand with the bad news about COVID-19 from around the world. Hearing constant reports about the illness and death caused by coronavirus can be hard to take. At a news conference today, the World Health Organization shared general tips for self-care and discussed why the mental health needs of the old and the young deserve special attention.

For starters, everyone needs to look after one's own basic needs to stay mentally healthy in a stressful time.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

There is a little bit of good news about the coronavirus. Researchers say that as it spreads across the world, it's changing its genetic makeup only slightly. NPR's Pien Huang explains.

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."

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