CHINA / POLITICS
Exclusive: Some 2019 EVALI patients in the US may have been infected with COVID-19: sources
Scientists urge US to screen for COVID-19 in vaping-related lung disease and share data
Published: Jul 31, 2021 11:54 AM Updated: Aug 01, 2021 07:50 PM




It's possible that some of the patients of the mysterious vaping-related lung disease that swept through all of the 50 US states in 2019 were actually COVID-19 patients, according to a group of Chinese scientists and radiologists after reviewing some 250 chest CT scans from published papers. These scientists urged the US to start screening for COVID-19 patients in 2019 e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI) patients.

Questions about CT scan comparison between EVALI and COVID-19 patients in the US

Questions about CT scan comparison between EVALI and COVID-19 patients in the US



The Global Times learned from sources close to the matter on Saturday that after studying 250 chest CT scans of 142 EVALI patients selected from some 60 related studies that have been published, Chinese scientists found that 16 EVALI patients were involved in viral infections, which indicates that they could have had COVID-19. Five of the cases were determined as "moderately suspicious." 

The 16 EVALI patients were all from the US, and in 12 patients symptoms started before 2020.

They concluded that there were viral infection cases among EVALI infections reported in the US in 2019, and the possibility of COVID-19 in the vaping-related lung disease in the US cannot be ruled out, sources said. 

Sources explained that five patients were deemed as "moderately suspicious" because their CT scans had the characteristics of scans for COVID-19 patients, which consisted of ground-glass opacities that were mainly distributed near the periphery of the lower lungs. In serious conditions, their CT scans showed multiple extensive consolidations in both lungs. Meanwhile, these clinical features are similar to those of COVID-19 patients.

Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Friday that due to the similarity of symptoms between EVALI and COVID-19 patients and since no nucleic acid detection kits were available then, it's highly likely that some COVID-19 patients were actually misdiagnosed as EVALI patients in 2019, Yang said. 

CT scans are part of the evidence, the US can now run antibody tests on blood samples of EVALI patients to find out how many of them were actually COVID-19 patients, and share the data with the global community to help the world get closer to the COVID-19 origins, Yang said, noting "it's a very easy job."

According to media reports, the vaping-related lung disease was reported in the US as early as July 2019, the same month the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) issued a "cease and desist order" to halt most research at Fort Detrick. 

According to the USCDC, the emergency department visits related to e-cigarette or vaping sharply increased in August 2019, and peaked in September. 

As of February 18, 2020, the first COVID-19-related deaths were being reported in the US, a total of 2,807 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths were reported to the USCDC in all 50 states. As of today, there is still no confirmed cause of the e-cigarette pneumonia, and the contagiousness of the disease is still unknown.

In September 2019, vaping-related lung illness cases also doubled in Maryland where Fort Detrick lab is located, adding to the suspicion of Fort Detrick. This is especially because the lab stores some of the deadliest viruses in the world, including Ebola, smallpox, SARS, MERS and the novel coronavirus.

As a result, a group of Chinese netizens issued an open letter urging the WHO to investigate Fort Detrick lab and entrusted the Global Times to publish it and launch an online petition. So far, the petition has drawn more than 23 million signatures.

In the meantime, the timeline of early cases in the US has been constantly dialed forward. A study of over 24,000 samples taken for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research program in the US between January 2 and March 18, 2020 suggested that seven people across five US states may have contracted COVID-19 at least a month before the country's first officially confirmed cases on January 21, 2020.

Instead of addressing these concerns, the Biden administration called off the scientific research on early cases of COVID-19 in the US and engaged in what the Chinese Foreign Ministry called "origins-tracing terrorism."

The US attempted to link the origins of the virus with China and even Asian countries as a group, which has triggered rising anti-Asian sentiments in the US and other Western countries. Asians are facing discrimination, oppression and even physical abuse, experts noted.

The US has also been suppressing scientists who do not conform to its narrative. Some scientists were even verbally assaulted. Some media have compared such behaviors of the US with acts of terrorism, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a Thursday's media briefing.

Zhao on Friday urged the US to take four steps on COVID-19 origins tracing if it wants to show transparency, including disclosing data on early COVID-19 cases, inviting the World Health Organization (WHO) to probe Fort Detrick, the University of North Carolina, and the team of Ralph S Baric, particularly, and publishing data on sick soldiers who attended the Wuhan Military World Games in October 2019. 

Zhao urged the US to disclose data on early cases, including the unexplained respiratory disease in Virginia, vaping-related lung disease in Wisconsin in July 2019 and flu patients in the winter of 2019.  

"The US should conduct nucleic acid testing and antibody tests on serum samples of these patients to find out how many of them were actually COVID-19 patients," Zhao said.


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