In late December, a doctor working in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China, posted online about a SARS-like virus that he observed in seven recent patients.
His message, which was posted in a medical school alumni group, attracted the attention of Wuhan police, who accused him of rumor-mongering. But Dr. Li Wenliang was concerned about these patients, all of whom had come from a local seafood market and had been quarantined.
Just over a month later, tens of thousands of Chinese residents have been diagnosed with coronavirus, and hundreds have died. Including, now, Li himself, CNN reported. Li was 34.
A few days after Li posted about the illness in the online group. he was called in by Wuhan police and questioned about his knowledge of the situation, and made to sign a document acknowledging the misdemeanor of disrupting the social order and spreading online rumors.
Wuhan officials had already become aware of the outbreak when Li posted about it, but it wasn't until the day after Li's post that officials announced it and notified the World Health Organization.
Li was hospitalized Jan. 12 and officially diagnosed with coronavirus Feb. 1. He reportedly contracted it from one of his patients, who he didn't know had coronavirus.
CNN spoke to Li before he died, but had to communicate via text message because Li was coughing and struggling to breath too much to talk.
He feared he was going to be detained. "My family would worry sick about me, if I lose my freedom for a few days," he told CNN over a text message on WeChat -- he was coughing too much and breathing too poorly to speak over the phone.
He was released by police, but returned to work at Wuhan Central Hospital feeling helpless. He said: "There was nothing I could do. (Everything) has to adhere to the official line."
More than 560 people have died from coronavirus so far, and more than 28,000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the illness — nearly all of them in China.