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The six men were suffering from the same deadly coronavirus symptoms found in many COVID-19 patients today, the Sunday Times found.
The cases began on Tuesday April 24, 2012, when a 45-year-old man in southwest China was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit suffering from severe pneumonia.
The next day a 42-year-old man with the surname Lv was taken to the hospital with the same deadly symptoms.
By Thursday three more cases had emerged.
Zhou, 63, Liu, 46, and Li, 32 were also treated in intensive care.
A sixth man called Wu was then taken into intensive care the following Wednesday.
All the men were linked.
The six men had been given the task of clearing out piles of bat faeces in an abandoned copper mine in the hills south of the town of Tongguan in the Mojiang region.
Some had worked for two weeks before falling ill, and others just a few days.
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The men all had high fevers of above 39C.
They also suffered from the classic coronavirus symptoms of coughs and aching limbs.
All but one had severe difficulty in breathing.
After the first two men died, the remaining four underwent a barrage of tests for haemorrhage fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and influenza, but they all came back negative.
They were also tested for Sars, the outbreak that had erupted in southern China in 2002.
However, the results also came back negative.
The doctors sought the opinion of Professor Zhong Nanshan, a British-educated respiratory specialist and a former president of China’s medical association who had spearheaded his country’s efforts to combat Sars.
Aware the men might be suffering from another Sars-related coronavirus, he advised the doctors to test them for antibodies.
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The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a renowned centre of coronavirus expertise, was called in to test the four survivors.
The centre found that while none of the men had tested positive for Sars, all four had antibodies against another, unknown Sars-like coronavirus.
Furthermore, two patients who recovered showed greater levels of antibodies than two still in hospital, one of whom later died.
However, in a chilling turn of events China have been unable to find any news reports of this new Sars-like coronavirus or the three deaths.
There appears to have been a media blackout on the men and the coronavirus cases, sparking further cover-up fears.
However, other vital details, of the hidden disease, including the results of the antibody tests, were found in a PhD paper by a student of the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young medic Li Xu, produced a thesis on this with some findings.
His supervisor, Professor Qian Chuanyun, had worked in the emergency department that treated the six men.
His thesis indicated that the most likely cause was a Sars-like coronavirus from a bat.
“This makes the research of the bats in the mine where the six miners worked and later suffered from severe pneumonia caused by unknown virus a significant research topic,” Li concluded.
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