Pien Huang | Connecticut Public Radio
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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.

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 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.

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.

Every day, as many as 500 babies in sub-Saharan Africa are born with HIV. Standard practice in many of these countries is to give them treatment if they test positive, but not for weeks or even months after they're born. The concern is that newborns can't tolerate the powerful drugs.

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Every day, as many as 500 babies in sub-Saharan Africa are born with HIV. Now a study out of Botswana finds that if newborns are given treatment right away, the virus becomes almost undetectable. NPR's Pien Huang reports.

You'd think that as a poor country grows wealthier, more of its children would get vaccinated for preventable diseases such as polio, measles and pneumonia.

But a review published in Nature this month offers a different perspective.

You might think that the more you clean, the less germy your home is.

That's what Laura-Isobel McCall, a biochemist at the University of Oklahoma, thought she'd find when she started comparing microbes between rural and urban homes in Peru and Brazil.

"We expected that all the microbes would actually become less diverse with urbanization, and that's not at all what we found for the fungi," she says.

Alexandra Chen was a trauma specialist working in Lebanon and Jordan when she noticed that a specific group of kids were struggling in schools.

Chen kept getting referrals for refugee students who had fled the war in Syria. They were having trouble focusing and finishing schoolwork. Some had even dropped out of school.

Better vaccines, nutrition and disease control have cut the global death rate for children in half over the past 20 years. But even within countries that have made major progress, children can face greatly different fates.

"Where you're born substantially impacts your probability of surviving to 5," says Simon Hay, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington who is the lead author of a new study on childhood mortality in Nature.

Naked mole rats don't look like they'd be one of nature's superstars. They're about the size and shape of small sweet potatoes. These rodents are native to the grasslands of East Africa, and are mostly hairless, wrinkled, and blind. And yet, they've evolved some special behaviors and features that help them thrive in harsh environments in which other mammals (humans included) would wither.

Viktoriia Radchuk, an evolutionary ecologist at Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, wanted to know how animals were responding to climate change.

So she scoured the results of more than 10,000 animal studies — on species from frogs to snakes, from insects to birds to mammals — looking for information on how changing environments were affecting animal behavior. Based on the available data, she decided to focus on birds in the Northern Hemisphere.

Precision medicine is the field of dreams for human health. Drugs and treatments that would take into account a person's individual DNA configurations, as well as lifestyle and environment, would presumably be better tailored to each person's needs. Still, while the goal of precision medicine is to help everybody, the current research available has a major flaw. It's largely based on the genes of people who are predominantly of white and European descent.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

Three summers ago, Ayse Tenger-Trolander, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, ordered a batch of monarch butterflies from a breeder, and made an accidental discovery: the butterflies had likely lost the ability to migrate.

The world's glaciers are melting faster than before, but it still takes decades to see changes that are happening at a glacial pace.

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