Doc­tor who sounded alarm about virus dies

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ken Morit­sugu

The Wuhan Cen­tral Hospi­tal said Dr. Li Wen­liang, a 34-yearold oph­thal­mol­o­gist, was “un­for­tu­nately in­fected.”

BEI­JING >> The death toll in main­land China’s new virus out­break has risen to 636, in­clud­ing a doc­tor who got in trou­ble with au­thor­i­ties in the com­mu­nist coun­try for sound­ing an early warn­ing about the dis­ease threat.

Dr. Li Wen­liang, 34, was re­port­edly rep­ri­manded for “spread­ing ru­mors” in late De­cem­ber.

Mean­while, a new­born dis­cov­ered in­fected 36 hours af­ter birth has be­come the youngest known pa­tient. The num­ber of peo­ple in­fected glob­ally has risen to more than 31,000.

Li had worked at a hospi­tal in the epi­cen­ter of the out­break in the cen­tral city of Wuhan. He was rep­ri­manded by lo­cal po­lice for “spread­ing ru­mors” about the illness in late De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports. The out­break has spread to some two dozen coun­tries, trig­ger­ing travel re­stric­tions and quar­an­tines around the world and a cri­sis in­side the coun­try of 1.4 bil­lion.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion tweeted: “We are deeply sad­dened by the pass­ing of Dr Li Wen­liang. We all need to cel­e­brate work that he did” on the virus.

Within a half-hour of an­nounc­ing ear­lier Fri­day that Li was in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, the hospi­tal re­ceived nearly 500,000 com­ments on its so­cial me­dia post, many of them from peo­ple hop­ing Li would pull through. One wrote: “We are not go­ing to bed. We are here wait­ing for a mir­a­cle.”

Li was among a num­ber of med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als in Wuhan who tried to warn col­leagues and oth­ers when the gov­ern­ment did not, The New York Times re­ported ear­lier this week. It said that af­ter the mys­tery illness had stricken seven pa­tients at a hospi­tal, Li said of them in an on­line chat group Dec. 30: “Quar­an­tined in the emer­gency depart­ment.”

An­other par­tic­i­pant in the chat re­sponded by won­der­ing, “Is SARS com­ing again?” — a ref­er­ence to the 2002-03 vi­ral out­break that killed hun­dreds, the news­pa­per said.

Wuhan health of­fi­cials sum­moned Li in the mid­dle of the night to de­mand he ex­plain why he shared the in­for­ma­tion, and po­lice later forced him to sign a state­ment ad­mit­ting to “il­le­gal be­hav­ior,” the Times said.

“If the of­fi­cials had dis­closed in­for­ma­tion about the epi­demic ear­lier,” Li said in an in­ter­view in the Times via text mes­sages, “I think it would have been a lot bet­ter. There should be more open­ness and trans­parency.”

A baby born last Satur­day in Wuhan and con­firmed pos­i­tive just 36 hours af­ter birth be­came the youngest known per­son in­fected with the virus, au­thor­i­ties said. But pre­cisely how the child be­came in­fected was un­clear.

“The baby was im­me­di­ately sep­a­rated from the mother af­ter the birth and has been un­der ar­ti­fi­cial feed­ing. There was no close con­tact with the par­ents, yet it was di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease,” Zeng Lingkong, di­rec­tor of neona­tal diseases at Wuhan Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal, told Chi­nese TV.

Zeng said other in­fected mothers have given birth to ba­bies who tested neg­a­tive, so it is not yet known if the virus can be trans­mit­ted in the womb.

China fin­ished build­ing a sec­ond new hospi­tal Thurs­day to iso­late and treat pa­tients — a 1,500-bed cen­ter in Wuhan. Ear­lier this week, an­other rapidly con­structed, 1,000-bed hospi­tal in Wuhan with pre­fab­ri­cated wards and iso­la­tion rooms be­gan tak­ing pa­tients.

Au­thor­i­ties also moved peo­ple with milder symp­toms into makeshift hos­pi­tals at sports are­nas, ex­hi­bi­tion halls and other pub­lic spa­ces.

All to­gether, more than 50 mil­lion peo­ple are un­der vir­tual quar­an­tine in hard­hit Hubei province in an un­prece­dented bid to bring the out­break un­der con­trol.

In Hong Kong, hospi­tal work­ers de­mand­ing a shut­down of the ter­ri­tory’s bor­der with main­land China were still on strike. The ter­ri­tory’s leader Car­rie Lam an­nounced a 14-day quar­an­tine of all trav­el­ers en­ter­ing the city from the main­land start­ing Satur­day, but the gov­ern­ment has re­fused to seal the bor­der en­tirely. Tai­wan

has said it will refuse en­try to all non-cit­i­zens or res­i­dents who have re­cently vis­ited Hong Kong, Ma­cao or China be­gin­ning Fri­day.

Two docked cruise ships with thou­sands of pas­sen­gers and crew mem­bers re­mained un­der 14-day quar­an­tines in Hong Kong and Ja­pan.

Ten pas­sen­gers con­firmed to have the virus were es­corted off the Di­a­mond Princess at the port of Yoko­hama near Tokyo, af­ter 10 oth­ers were taken off the pre­vi­ous day. About 3,700 peo­ple were con­fined aboard the ship.

“It’s go­ing to be like a float­ing prison,” pas­sen­ger David Abel lamented on Face­book. He had set out on a 50th wed­ding an­niver­sary lux­ury cruise but found him­self in his cabin, eat­ing a “let­tuce sand­wich with some chicken in­side.”

More than 3,600 peo­ple on the other quar­an­tined ship, the World Dream, un­der­went screen­ing af­ter eight pas­sen­gers were di­ag­nosed with the virus.

Test­ing of a new an­tivi­ral drug was set to be­gin on a group of pa­tients Thurs­day, the of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency re­ported. The drug, Remde­sivir, is made by U.S. biotech com­pany Gilead Sci­ences.

From Europe to Aus­tralia and the U.S., univer­si­ties that host Chi­nese stu­dents or have study-abroad pro­grams are scram­bling to as­sess the risks, and some are can­cel­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and pro­hibit­ing stu­dent travel.

Cen­tral banks in the Philip­pines and Thai­land have cut their in­ter­est rates to fend off eco­nomic dam­age from the out­break in China, the world’s sec­ond-big­gest econ­omy, with 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple. China is a ma­jor source of tourists in Asia, and cor­po­ra­tions around the world de­pend on its fac­to­ries to sup­ply prod­ucts and its con­sumers to buy them.


Med­i­cal work­ers in a pro­tec­tive suit help pa­tients who di­ag­nosed with the coro­n­avirus as they ar­rive at a tem­po­rary hospi­tal which trans­formed from an ex­hi­bi­tion cen­ter in Wuhan in cen­tral China’s Hubei province.

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