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Wuhan Doctor Who Was Punished for Warning of Coronavirus Outbreak Has Been Infected

A doctor puts on protective goggles before entering the isolation ward at a hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, January 30, 2020. (China Out/China Daily via Reuters)

A doctor from Wuhan, China, who was punished by authorities for warning medical school classmates of the outbreak of the then-unknown coronavirus, is himself now infected with the virus.

Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist, told CNN from his intensive-care hospital bed that he had contracted the virus after coming into contact with an infected patient at Wuhan Central Hospital on January 10. Li developed a fever and coughing, and could only communicate with CNN via text message due to severe breathing problems.

On December 30, Li texted his classmates that the Wuhan hospital had seen several cases of a SARS-like illness in patients that had visited a seafood market in the city. While he told his friends to warn family privately, screenshots of his texts went viral in China hours later.

While Wuhan authorities announced the outbreak on December 31, Li was reprimanded by police on January 3 for “spreading rumors online” and “severely disrupting social order.”

“My family would worry sick about me, if I lose my freedom for a few days,” Li said. “There was nothing I could do. [Everything] has to adhere to the official line.”

There are now 20,438 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in mainland China, with close to 200 confirmed cases in other nations. China has reported 425 deaths from the virus, while one death was reported in the Philippines.

China has accused the U.S. of “spreading fear” in the wake of the outbreak, which has surpassed the 2003 SARS outbreak in scope. The Trump administration on Friday announced a series of measures to prevent foreign citizens who have recently visited China from entering the U.S.

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