Chinese doctor who blew whistle on 2003 SARS outbreak dies

Jiang Yanyong revealed the true extent of the deadly SARS virus of 2003 as Chinese officials downplayed its severity.

Military surgeon Jiang Yanyong  in 2004.

Jiang Yanyong, the Chinese doctor who alerted the world to the 2003 SARS outbreak, died at the age of 91, the South China Morning Post reported. 

Yanyong reportedly died at the People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing, the same hospital he worked at for decades. 

The outlet reported he died from pneumonia and other illnesses. 

The Human Rights Watch reported that Yanyong and his wife were detained in 2004 when he was en route to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for a visa. The Human Rights Watch said Yanyong forced the Chinese government to disclose the true extent of SARS. At the time, the Chinese government contended there were 19 known cases, but Yanyong revealed that over 170 cases of the virus had been found. 

The New York Times reported that his detention lasted 45 days. 

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The World Health Organization reported 8,000 cases of SARS were discovered from late 2002 through 2003, with China reporting 7,000. The United States had 27 reported cases, but all 27 were considered imported cases. 

WHO reported 774 fatalities tied to SARS. The organization said SARS spread in similar ways as the cold and flu, through droplets in the air.