By Alexandria San Juan
The Chinese doctor who sounded the alarm on the deadly novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) has died weeks after contracting the virus from one of his patients.
“We are very sad to hear the loss of Dr. Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate the work that he did on 2019 n-CoV,” WHO Health Emergencies Program Executive Director Mike Ryan said in a press briefing in Geneva on Friday (Manila time).
“We should celebrate his life and mourn his death along with colleagues,” Ryan added.
Li, a 34-year-old doctor working in the city of Wuhan – the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, tried to warn others about the deadly coronavirus as early as December.
He posted in his medical school alumni group on the Chinese messaging app WeChat that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and were quarantined in his hospital.
However, soon after he posted the message, Li was accused of rumor-mongering by the Wuhan police, and was one of several medics targeted by authorities for trying to blow the whistle on the deadly virus in the early weeks of the outbreak.
According to reports, Li was hospitalized on January 12 after he contracted the virus from one of his patients. He was confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV on February 1.
The death toll and number of people infected by the 2019-nCoV continues to swell, with no signs of slowing despite severe quarantine and population control methods put in place in central China.
As of the latest count, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there were already 28,060 confirmed cases in China, and 564 deaths.
Outside China, Ghebreyesus added that therr are a225 cases in 24 countries, with 1 death.
The WHO is set to convene a global research and innovation forum to identify research priorities and coordinate the international research effort to find therapeutics and vaccines for the virus.
“There is still a lot we don’t know. We don’t know the source of the outbreak, we don’t know what its natural reservoir is, and we don’t properly understand its transmissibility or severity,” Ghebreyesus said.
“There are also tools we don’t have. We have no vaccine to prevent infections, and no therapeutics to treat them. To put it bluntly: we’re shadow-boxing. We need to bring this virus out into the light so we can attack it properly,” he pointed out.
The meeting, which will be held February 7 to 10, will include scientists around the world, including those from China, both in person and virtually.
“The aim is to fast-track the development of effective diagnostic tests, vaccines, and medicines,” it added.