Chinese social media accounts flood ‘white lungs’ amid COVID spike

When Huang Deng’s father, a prominent ex-anchor of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, began to doze off more often during the day, the family didn’t worry.

After all, this wasn’t unusual for someone in their 80s. The man’s heart was radiant, and his appetite was plentiful. But his family’s careless use of pulse oximeters found that his blood oxygen level was dangerously low at 88%, putting him 4% below the threshold for medical attention. I understand. By the time his family took him to the hospital, his blood oxygen levels had plummeted into his 60s.

Only after a series of X-ray scans at the hospital did the family realize the gravity of the situation. A CT scan showed his lungs to be mostly white. Healthy lungs usually appear as dark areas on X-rays or CT scans.

He died after spending three nights in hospital.

Fans shared this account on Chinese social media. The account is inundated with similar stories by family and friends of victims who allegedly exhibited the same lung symptoms.

The once little-known phrase, “white lungs,” has emerged on Chinese social media amid the massive COVID outbreak sweeping through the country before censorship swooped in to wipe out discussion of the phenomenon. It was the most popular word in the. White patches indicate areas of inflammation, with excess fluid build-up in the lungs.

This phenomenon has raised concerns that the virus may have mutated or an earlier strain of COVID may be causing the latest outbreak. The Chinese government, which has been heavily criticized by the international community for refusing to share data on the outbreak, has said Omicron was behind the surge, with no new variants emerging and no previous strains re-emerging. claim.

medical services in china
A doctor looks at a CT image of a patient in Haidian, Beijing, China, January 2, 2023. (CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Official Explanations and Concerns

Older people were not the only ones who reportedly presented with white lung syndrome. Recent Chinese media reports and social media posts have reported patients between the ages of 12 and her 30s.

The mortality rate for severe cases of white lung is about 40%. Even those who recover are likely to have residual fibrotic scarring, Zhang Li, deputy director of neurosurgery at Shanghai’s China-Japan Friendship Hospital, told state media.

He and several other top Chinese experts believe that patients with white lungs — by their definition about three-quarters of their lungs appear white on X-rays — make up a small fraction of COVID patients. He said that

“Every severe pneumonia causes white lungs,” Zhang Wenhong, head of the infectious disease department at Fudan University Huashan Hospital and secretary of the Communist Party of China, said in an editorial in Caixin, a Chinese news agency.

“Although the proportion of ‘white lung’ patients is not high, the number of clinically observed ‘white lung’ cases will increase because there is a significant base.”

China faces surge in cases after relaxing zero COVID measures
A patient on oxygen is carried on a stretcher to a crowded emergency room at a hospital in Beijing, China, January 2, 2023. (Getty Images)

Asked whether Omicron could lead to the syndrome, China’s top health authority, the National Health Commission, did not answer the question directly, but said white lungs could be due to the original COVID variant or the Chinese vaccine. Rather, many pathogens can cause such lung inflammation, and a “significant number” of patients can return to good health, the committee said. Officials said at a press conference last week.

But the official statement has not put many Chinese at ease.

An unnamed doctor wearing a medical plastic shield over a surgical mask said he had diagnosed 120 COVID patients over an eight-hour period.

“White lungs are not only found in the elderly,” he said in a video shared on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

“There are people in their 20s, 40s, 60s.

anecdotes from the ground

Like the former CCTV anchor’s father, some of these patients showed few outward signs, such as fever and coughing, which are more common with COVID infections. This is a condition doctors describe as “silent hypoxia,” a state in which the oxygen in the body is surprisingly low.

In recent interviews, people in multiple regions across China said they had seen such cases in people close to them.

A blogger in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing mentioned a former schoolmate who developed white lung symptoms while recovering from a mild COVID infection.

“Doctors said it would have been dangerous if they had waited a little longer,” he told The Epoch Times.

Zhang, a Shanghai-based infectious disease expert, said 72 hours is the main window for treating “severe pneumonia cases.” However, in many cases this is not possible as access to medical care is very difficult. Hospitals and clinics across China have been overwhelmed in recent weeks since the surge in cases.

A white lung patient in Suzhou, a city near Shanghai, could not be placed in a hospital after being diagnosed with double lung inflammation and viral pneumonia.

“There were no beds,” he told The Epoch Times.

Living in Suzhou
A CT image provided by a patient in Suzhou on December 30, 2022. (Epoch Times)

A man in Wuhan, China’s first virus hotspot in 2020, has the virus along with his wife and mother. His mother was in the worst condition and had eaten very little. After numerous visits to a major hospital full of her infected, they took her to a small local hospital where she was put on anti-inflammatory drugs for two days.

“Tests showed she had a lung infection. Doctors didn’t say much, but my guess is it’s also ‘white lung,'” he said on Dec. 30, 2022. told the Epoch Times.

“There are deaths nonstop in my neighborhood every day,” he said, adding that most of them were elderly. It will infect everyone.No one will be spared.” His friend added that he lost his mother two days after a chest imaging test detected white lungs.

For now, his solution is to use immunoglobulins to treat certain infections. The remedy has jumped eight times its price in some areas. Because some people rated him online for helping ease his COVID. He was able to get his 10 pack through Connection.

It is unclear whether such a number of deaths are attributable to COVID. China’s official tally is so low so far that on January 3, a leading World Health Organization scientist called for a “more realistic picture of what’s really going on.”

china health virus
This photo shows a Covid-19 patient in bed at Tianjin Nanhai Hospital in Tianjin on December 28, 2022. (Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite widespread skepticism about the administration’s case count, which has been closed to the public for days in recent days, health officials say infection rates are above 50% in many big cities, and 80% in Beijing. said it could be reached. According to a leaked memo from the National Health Commission, the administration estimated he had 250 million infections in his first 20 days of December 2022.

A Beijing resident who identified himself as Wang said he had to make an appointment 25 days in advance to cremate his brother, who died three days after being diagnosed with respiratory failure.

He recently visited a friend with white lung symptoms at the hospital and was surprised to find a pile of corpses in the hallway.

“Shortly after we started talking, they said the ward had to deal with the dead and asked me to leave. Every day someone dies there,” Wang told the Epoch Times. rice field.

“You know nothing,” he said. “And they won’t tell you. All they say is that you have lung inflammation.”

Hong Ning and Yi Ru contributed to this report.

Eva Who
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times, focusing on US politics, US-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Please contact Eva at [email protected]