Chinese doctor who tried to alert others about coronavirus dies from disease aged 34

6 February 2020, 16:24

Doctor Li Wenliang has died of coronavirus
Doctor Li Wenliang has died of coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A Chinese doctor who tried to warn others about coronavirus has died in hospital aged just 34 after contracting the disease, China's state media has reported.

Li Wenliang, who was one of eight people who tried to alert authorities to the deadly flu-like virus but was reprimanded by police, lost his life to the disease today.

Li sent a message around his medical school alumni group saying that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and were under quarantine in hospital.

Li told friends to warn their loved ones, but his messages went viral. "When I saw them circulating online, I realized that it was out of my control and I would probably be punished," Li said.

A third person in the UK was confirmed to have coronavirus today
A third person in the UK was confirmed to have coronavirus today. Picture: PA

He was then targeted by police for trying to expose the virus in the early stages of the outbreak.

Dr Li died at 9.30pm local time in hospital. According to social media, he leaves his pregnant wife, who also contracted the disease.

Police told Dr Li to stop warning fellow medics about the outbreak, but he defied their orders and posted his story to social media from his hospital bed.

After posting his message, Dr Li was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter, the BBC reported.

He was accused of "making false comments" that had "severely disturbed the social order". He was said to be among eight people who were facing investigation for “spreading rumours” about the disease.

Dr Li published a copy of the letter on Chinese social media site Weibo. He is believed to have contracted the virus after treating a woman who had glaucoma.

He documented his battle with the disease on Weibo. On January 10 he wrote that he had started coughing, then developed a fever and two days later he was in hospital. Ten days later China declared the outbreak was a national emergency.

The World Health Organisation tweeted after his death: "We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did on coronavirus."

Separately, Chinese authorities confirmed that coronavirus was today found in a baby just 36 hours after its birth, China's official media said.

The baby born on Sunday in Wuhan is China's youngest case of the illness.

Only a handful of children have come down with the new coronavirus, which has been most severe in older people.

Zeng Lingkong, director of neonatal diseases at Wuhan Children's Hospital, said the mother had tested positive before birth and the baby was separated from her immediately after its birth.

Zeng said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV that other mothers gave birth to babies who tested negative, so it is still unclear if the virus can be transmitted in the womb.

Zeng said the possibility "needs further study".