Helen Branswell is a Canadian infectious diseases and global health reporter at Stat News. Branswell spent fifteen years as a medical reporter at The Canadian Press. She led coverage of the Ebola, Zika, SARS and swine flu pandemics, as well as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Branswell is from Canada and has family in Ottawa. In 1978, Branswell received a B.A. in English literature the St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, Canada. When asked how she wound up in journalism she replied: “I fell into journalism, I was not somebody who had worked at a high school newspaper or college newspaper or anything. I just didn’t know what to do after getting a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. And somebody said, “What can you do?” And I said, “I think I can write.” And so, I started freelancing for the local paper in the small town I lived in at the time in Eastern Canada at $15 a story. And the rest is history, but with a lot of moves and a lot of different opportunities along the way.”
Branswell joined The Canadian Press in 1986, where she served as London correspondent for five years. She started out in general news, working as a political reporter and foreign correspondent. She switched to medical reporting in 2000, and became well known for her coverage of global health outbreaks, starting with the first 2002–2004 SARS outbreak where she reported “on the only real outbreak outside of Asia.” Branswell led the coverage of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola,Avian influenza, Zika, Middle East respiratory syndrome and swine flu pandemics. In 2004 Branswell was a Knight Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control.
In 2011 Branswell was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Here she concentrated on Polio eradication, with a focus on how India is fighting the spread of poliovirus. During an interview with the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Branswell provided an overview of her experience on reporting during pandemics. This report included advice on which stories to cover and which not cover, how to identify reliable sources and how to prepare for interviews with researchers.The Canadian Press did not have a large budget and Branswell wrote most of her articles from her office or home.
In 2015 Branswell left The Canadian Press to join Stat News. Stat News, a health news website, launched that year. Branswell is a popular science communicator. She is regularly recommended[by whom?] as one of the most important health journalists to follow on Twitter. She was selected as a Harvard Medical School media fellow in 2019.