Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan

Vivienne Chow

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A Chinese film director and his entire family have died from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Chang Kai, a film director and an external communications officer at a Hubei Film Studio subsidiary, died in hospital on Feb. 14 from the virus now called COVID-19, according to a statement from the studio. He was 55.

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But Chang’s death was not the first in his family—the Chinese media reported that Chang’s father and mother were infected and died one after the other. Chang and his sister, who looked after their parents at home, were both infected with the virus as a result. His sister died just hours later. Chang’s wife is also infected, still alive, and is still battling the virus in an intensive care unit.

A note written by Chang, said to be his last words, has gone viral on the Chinese Internet. Chang wrote that his father succumbed to the illness on the first day of the Lunar New Year (January 25). “My father had a fever, cough and trouble breathing. [We] tried to send him to the hospital but none of the hospitals we visited took him, because they had no more beds,” he wrote.

Instead, Chang brought his father home where ha died a few days later, having passed on the virus to the other family members. Chang’s note said that he and his wife were denied the opportunity to be treated early. Wuhan built a new hospital in six days, but capacity to handle the virus remains strained. Chang bade farewell to his family, friends and his son, who is reportedly studying in the U.K.

Chang enrolled in Wuhan University’s journalism school to study photography in 1989, and joined Hubei Film Studio upon graduation. The studio praised Chang for his contribution to the studio’s development, saying that he was a well-respected colleague and his death was a painful loss.

As of Feb. 17, the virus has infected 71,330 —70,548 in mainland China—and claimed 1,775 lives (1,770 in mainland China), surpassing the death toll of SARS in 2003.

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