Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital who tried to warn Chinese citizens about coronavirus months ago, died late on Friday evening as a result of the disease. Last December, Li was detained by the police in China for “rumor-mongering” after the message he shared with his medical school alumni group about the threat of a new “SARS-like virus” began to make its way across social media.
After being released from detention, Li returned to his job, and just over a week later started coughing, and checked himself into the hospital. He was diagnosed with coronavirus three weeks later, on February 1. Even during his final days in the Wuhan Central Hospital’s intensive care unit, Li continued to post on social media.
“I’ve seen the support and encouragement so many people online have given me,” he wrote on Weibo, the Chinese messaging app. “It makes my feel a little more relaxed in my heart.”
According to CNN, as of Thursday there are 28,275 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally, with over 28,000 of those cases in China. The virus has led to 565 deaths, all but two of which were in China (the others were in the Philippines and Hong Kong).
It’s understandable to be concerned. Intelligent, even. When a flu-like virus is spreading this quickly, it can be a source of alarm for even the most hygiene-minded of us. But Americans have been warned repeatedly that there is no need for a broad panic—say, the type of panic that some might use to excuse wildly racist or xenophobic behavior. However, Americans rarely seem to listen to reason (look at our political system), which helps to explain the plethora of celebrities and public figures who are publicly expressing concern over catching coronavirus themselves. No way that those comments could contribute to this unnecessary panic, or even potentially lead to people acting in dangerous or violent ways towards marginalized people out of fear of contracting this disease! Not irresponsible at all.
As for what you can do to actually keep yourself healthy in this time of terror? To answer that, I’d like to quote Jezebel’s ever brilliant Megan Reynolds: get a fucking flu shot.