Chinese Doctor Who Blew Whistle on Novel Coronavirus Has Died

There was initially confusion among multiple media outlets regarding Dr. Li Wenliang's condition.


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Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old Chinese doctor widely reported as a "whistleblower" on the new coronavirus, has died, CNN reports Wuhan Central Hospital as confirming.

The doctor worked in Wuhan and initially made attempts at alerting the public via a medical school alumni group on WeChat to what was ultimately determined to be the novel coronavirus on Dec. 30, perCNN. At the time, Li reported that he had seen seven patients who had been diagnosed with what was described as "SARS-like" ailments.

Per reports, Li—who was one of several medical officials said to have been targeted by police—was ultimately alleged to have engaged in "rumor-mongering" by authorities in Wuhan. Though he wasn't formally confirmed to have the novel coronavirus until earlier this month, Li was hospitalized on Jan. 12 after reportedly catching it from a patient.

"We should celebrate his life and mourn his death along with colleagues," Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director for the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Health Emergencies division was quoted as saying during a press event in Geneva, then citing the multiple conflicting reports on the doctor's condition. WHO later clarified that they had "no information on the status of Dr Li."

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According to a separate report from the Guardian, news of Li's condition was first reported by the state-owned Global Times, resulting in many outlets later reporting that he had died while others corrected their initial stories to list him as "in critical condition."

At today's #2019nCoV media briefing @DrMikeRyan was asked about reports that Dr Li Wenliang had passed away, and he expressed condolences.

WHO has no information on the status of Dr Li.

— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 6, 2020

The Global Times later stated that he was "currently in critical condition" and being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation after his heart had stopped beating:

Wuhan Central Hospital said on Weibo that Li Wenliang is still under emergency treatment. GT reporters heard people weeping inside ICU. Li was one of the 8 whistleblowers who tried to warn other medics of the #coronavirus outbreak in Dec but were reprimanded by Wuhan police.

— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 6, 2020

As of Thursday, the global death count for the novel coronavirus had reached at least 565, with more than 28,000 overall cases confirmed in mainland China. In the States, there have been 12 confirmed cases.

Also on Thursday, WHO announced the convening of a global research and innovation forum in an effort to mobilize action worldwide in response to the new coronavirus.

"There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed as quickly as possible," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the organization, said in a press release. WHO, the doctor added, is playing "an important coordinating role" in the efforts by uniting the scientific community and thus advancing potential progress.

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