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Michaeleen Doucleff

Michaeleen Doucleff is a reporter 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 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.

In case you were still procrastinating getting a flu shot this year, here's another reason to make it a priority.

There's a chance the vaccine could offer some protection against COVID-19 itself, says virologist Robert Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is chairman of the Global Virus Network.

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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.

Measles is surging. Last week the U.S. recorded 90 cases, making this year's outbreak the second largest in more than two decades.

So far this year, the U.S. has confirmed 555 measles cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday. That's 50 percent higher than the total number recorded last year, even though we're only about a quarter of the way through 2019.

And the virus isn't slowing down.

Six months ago, I found myself preparing for battle.

I was lying in bed at 5:30 a.m., going over in my head how to handle the next encounter with my 3-year-old daughter, Rosy.

Goodness knows, I love her so much. But there's a fire in that little belly. And to be honest, I have no idea how to handle all the anger — the tantrums, the screaming and, most of all, the hitting.

When she's angry and I pick her up, she has a habit of slapping me across the face. Sometimes it really hurts. I've even started ducking like a boxer when I lift her up.

Back in the 1960s, a Harvard graduate student made a landmark discovery about the nature of human anger.

At age 34, Jean Briggs traveled above the Arctic Circle and lived out on the tundra for 17 months. There were no roads, no heating systems, no grocery stores. Winter temperatures could easily dip below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Briggs persuaded an Inuit family to "adopt" her and "try to keep her alive," as the anthropologist wrote in 1970.

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Over the past three years, I've had one major goal in my personal life: To stop being so angry.

Anger has been my emotional currency. I grew up in an angry home. Door slamming and phone throwing were basic means of communication.

I brought these skills to my 20-year marriage. "Why are you yelling?" my husband would say.

"I'm not," I'd retort. Oh wait. On second thought: "You're right. I am yelling."

Several years ago, British entomologist Steve Lindsay landed at an American airport and was immediately struck by all the furry creatures walking around the baggage claim area.

"I was astounded to see sniffer dogs, looking for fruits and vegetables," says Lindsay, who studies malaria at Durham University in the U.K.

Recent studies have found that people carrying malaria release a signature scent. "So I thought, 'Well, if a dog can smell fruits and vegetables in luggage, could they smell malaria in a person?' " Lindsay says.

The pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. Inc. is ending a long-term agreement to supply a lifesaving vaccine for children in West Africa.

At the same time, the company has started sending the vaccine to China, where it will likely be sold for a much higher price.

The vaccine is for a deadly form of diarrhea, called rotavirus, which kills about 200,000 young children and babies each year.

The rate of cesarean sections around the world is increasing at an "alarming" rate, reported an international team of doctors and scientists on Thursday.

Since 1990, C-sections have more than tripled from about 6 percent of all births to 21 percent, three studies report in The Lancet. And there are no "signs of slowing down," the researchers write in a commentary about the studies.

Maybe the short answer is: We need a better imagination?

The global health world hasn't set its goals high enough, hasn't dreamed big enough when it comes to stopping tuberculosis, says Dr. Paul Farmer, physician at Harvard Medical School and founder of the nonprofit Partners In Health.

"We've had a failure of imagination," he says. "We haven't had the same optimism, commitment and high ambitious goals around TB that we've seen around HIV. And what's the downside of setting high goals? I think it's very limited."

About a hundred years ago, something devious started happening in our homes and offices, in our cars and at restaurants — and our backs have never been the same.

For hundreds — even thousands — of years, chairs were made of wood. Maybe the seat was covered with cord or cattail leaves, and if you were rich, you could afford some padded upholstery, which began to take off in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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