Accounts of ‘White Lung’ Flood Chinese Social Media Amid COVID Spike

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When the father of Fan Deng, a prominent former anchor of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, started dozing off more frequently during the day, the family didn’t worry.

This wasn’t uncommon, after all, for someone in their 80s. The man’s mind was clear and his appetite was as good as ever. But when the family used a pulse oximeter out of caution, they found his blood oxygen level dangerously low at 88 percent, 4 percent below the threshold requiring medical attention. By the time the family got him to the hospital, his blood oxygen levels had plunged to the 60s.

Only after doing a CT scan at the hospital did the family realize the gravity of the situation: His lungs appeared mostly white. Healthy lungs, by contrast, would normally appear as dark regions.

He died after three nights at the hospital.

Fan shared this account on Chinese social media, which has been flooded with similar stories by family and friends of victims who allegedly presented the same symptoms in their lungs.

“White lung,” once a little-known phrase, has been a top trending word on Chinese social media amid an expansive COVID outbreak sweeping China, before censors swooped in to scrub discussion of the phenomenon. The white patches indicate areas of inflammation, which causes excessive fluid accumulation in the lungs.

The phenomenon has sparked fears that the virus has mutated or that earlier strains of COVID are driving the latest outbreak. The Chinese regime, which has been sharply criticized by the international community for refusing to share data on the outbreak, insists that Omicron is behind the surge, that no new variants have emerged, and no earlier strains have reemerged.

Official Explanation and Concerns

The elderly weren’t the only group who reportedly presented with white lung syndrome. Recent Chinese media reports and social media posts have described patients from as young as 12 years old to some in their 30s.

The death rate is around 40 percent for those with serious cases of a white lung; and even for people who do recover, fibrous scars will likely remain, Zhang Li, deputy director of neurosurgery at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Shanghai, told state-run media.

By Eva Fu

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