Chinese doctor who first warned about coronavirus outbreak dies

Li Wenliang warned of the virus as far back as December, when it first emerged

Chinese-doctor-Wuhan-Li-Wenliang-Twitter A photo of the doctor from Wuhan, who was among the first to alert the public to the threat that the coronavirus posed | Image circulating on social media

Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, one of the eight whistle-blowers who warned other medics of the coronavirus outbreak but were reprimanded by the police, died of the epidemic on Thursday, official media reported.

Li, a 34-year-old doctor who tried to warn other medics of the epidemic, died of coronavirus on Thursday in Wuhan, the state-run Global Times reported.

He was the first to report about the virus way back in December last year when it first emerged in Wuhan, the provincial capital of China's central Hubei province.

He dropped a bombshell in his medical school alumni group on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and quarantined in his hospital.

Li explained that, according to a test he had seen, the illness was a coronavirus—a large family of viruses that includes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which led to 800 death in China and the world in 2003.

Li told his friends to warn their loved ones privately. But within hours screenshots of his messages had gone viral—without his name being blurred.

"When I saw them circulating online, I realised that it was out of my control and I would probably be punished," Li was quoted as saying by CNN recently.

Soon after he posted the message, Li was accused of rumour-mongering by the Wuhan police.

He was one of several medics targeted by the police for trying to blow the whistle on the deadly virus in the early weeks of the outbreak. 

Messages of grief and support for him poured in from across social media, with many messages coming from China.

Overall 564 people have died in China due to the virus and 28,018 confirmed cases have been reported from 31 provincial-level regions, the National Health Commission reported on Thursday.