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A.I. Suggests US Vaping Illness Case From Last Summer Was Actually COVID-19
news  |  Apr 10, 2020

A.I. Suggests US Vaping Illness Case From Last Summer Was Actually COVID-19

A supercomputer called Tianhe-1 proposed that an American EVALI patient who developed pneumonia last year actually had COVID-19. But the doctor who treated the patient disagrees.

A supercomputer called Tianhe-1 proposed that an American EVALI patient who developed pneumonia last year actually had COVID-19. But the doctor who treated the patient disagrees.

What if COVID-19 didn’t first appear in Wuhan, China sometime last November? What if the coronavirus actually first popped up in North Carolina, USA — three months before China got hit?

That’s what a supercomputer programmed to detect COVID-19, Tianhe-1, proposed after analyzing medical data taken from a US patient last August. Tianhe-1 is housed at the National Supercomputer Center in Tianjin, China.

The unidentified American patient, who lived in North Carolina, was treated by doctors for EVALI, or e-cigarette and vaping-associated lung injury. In case you forgot, that’s the other lung illness that the CDC obsessed over before the coronavirus pandemic blew up.

Anyway, Tianhe-1 looked at the US patient’s CAT scans. One feature, in particular, stuck out to the supercomputer: White blotches that resembled “ground glass” on the lower parts of the patient’s lungs. Similar blotches appear on lung images taken from COVID-19 patients.

“The image shows features of COVID-19, and a comprehensive diagnosis is recommended in combination with epidemiological information and other clinical characteristics,” Tianhe-1 concluded in a printed report, according to the South China Morning Post.

The patient was just one of five in North Carolina who were also diagnosed with EVALI around the same time. All five were between the ages of 18- and 35-years-old, and all of them received treatment at the WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, the CDC wrote in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. None of the patients tested positive for the flu, the common cold, or other pathogens. But they all said they vaped.

All five patients experienced the same symptoms: difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, and fever. All were hospitalized for “hypoxemic respiratory failure.” Three ended up in the ICU due to life-threatening shortness of breath. Doctors had to put one of them on a ventilator. Regardless, all five survived.

One American physician, Dr. Kevin Davidson, disagreed with Tianhe-1’s COVID-19 theory, though. Besides being a human who spent the better part of his adulthood studying modern medicine, he probably knows a thing or two about the US EVALI patient, as well: After all, Davidson led the WakeMed team that diagnosed and treated the patient.

“This finding on chest [CAT] of alveolar ground glass infiltrates is highly non-specific and is seen in many types of infections,” Davidson wrote to the South China Morning Post in an email. He noted that other medical conditions caused by autoimmune disorders, smoking shitty drugs, or environmental hazards can cause the same white patches seen in coronavirus patients. He did agree that Tianhe-1 detected some “overlap” of EVALI’s symptoms with COVID-19’s.

Furthermore, Davidson doesn’t believe his patient suffered from COVID-19 since a coronavirus outbreak never occurred in North Carolina before, during, or shortly after the patient was diagnosed. The novel coronavirus is incredibly contagious, and its symptoms develop anywhere from five days to a month after transmission. EVALI is not contagious at all.

But could Tianhe-1 be onto something? Let’s briefly entertain the thought.

The Director of the US National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, believes it’s possible that the coronavirus jumped from bats to humans years ago. It may have continued silently spreading among humans, and across the planet, undetected. And every time it replicated and transmitted to another person, some of its new copies developed genetic mutations. Mutations are natural. They just happen.

Over time, the mutations added up and made the coronavirus more effective at spreading from human to human. Eventually, it became so effective at hijacking human cells that it turned on its host, causing deadly health complications like pneumonia in the process. 

That’s the thought, anyway.

To truly determine if the US EVALI patient actually had COVID-19, doctors would need to screen the patient’s antibodies. If they find antibodies for the novel coronavirus, then it’s possible that the patient had COVID-19 and not EVALI. (Man, wouldn’t that fuckin’ suck to have both at the same time?)

But even if the patient came down with COVID-19 back in August 2019, that still wouldn’t explain why the first coronavirus outbreak surged in Wuhan, China, and not Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Ha! Stupid computer.

Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

randyrobinson

Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay

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