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Doctor who warned of coronavirus dies, per reports

Posted at 1:11 PM, Feb 06, 2020

One of the first doctors to sound the alarm about the novel coronavirus amidst a government campaign to silence him has died after a fight with the disease.

According to BBC, that Chinese media outlet Global Times initially reported that Li Wenliang had died, but later issued a correction to say he was in critical condition. The People's Daily, another Chinese outlet, also reported that Li had died.

Hours later, the Associated Press and New York Times confirmed that Li has died.

According to BBC, Li was a 34-year-old ophthalmologist from Wuhan, China. In late December, he noticed that seven of his patients were suffering from a disease he thought looked like SARS — a disease that originated in China and led to a global outbreak in 2003.

According to CNN all of the patients worked at a local seafood market, and all were quarantined at his hospital.

On Dec. 30, Li posted about the cases in a WeChat group with other doctors, warning them to wear protective clothing in order to avoid contracting the disease.

Four days after he sent the WeChat message, Li was called to the Public Security Bureau, according to the BBC. While there, he was told to sign a letter in which he was accused of making false statements and disturbing social order.

Li was one of eight people who police investigated for "spreading rumors" about the disease. Authorities later issued an apology to Li.

Since Li issued his warning, nearly 30,000 people have contracted coronavirus in China, and 500 have died — including Li.

According to CNN, Li was hospitalized on Jan. 12 when he began exhibiting symptoms of the disease. Doctors confirmed the coronavirus diagnosis on Feb. 1.

It's suspected that Li contracted the disease from one of his patients.

"We are very sad to hear the loss of Li Wenliang," Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director for the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program, according to CNN.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.