Earlier this month, doctors in Hong Kong noticed a stomachache. Two weeks later, one of them went to a hospital in southern China and was rushed in a full body cast — covered with horrifying lesions, according to U.S. military and government records.

Known as the SARS coronavirus, this strain of the virus is believed to have taken a toll in Asia, with an estimated 40 deaths — and 47 percent of cases hospitalized — a number that has dramatically risen.

A doctor is alleged to have told the authorities in Guangdong province that he had been exposed to the virus. But in the end, he died of it. The latest virus case in the world is being investigated to see if the infection — and associated illness — is due to a misadventure.

The official cause of death for 37-year-old Mr. Wang is listed as unexplained sudden death syndrome. But according to records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese doctor likely died from coronavirus.

The case was reported publicly by the Ministry of Health in China Feb. 4, the day after Wang's funeral.

A contract between Chinese health authorities and Wang's employer, Hong Kong Hospital for Tropical Diseases, seems to indicate that the hospital in China was part of the mission to publicly warn the public about the coronavirus.

According to the contract, the hospital was to notify "all relevant departments at the Public Health Department" about Wang's contact with the virus. The contract said the hospital should give the ministry "all relevant information, findings and feedback."

At the time of Wang's death, he was working as a consultant to the Ministry of Health in Hong Kong.

There is no evidence that Wang knew about the coronavirus infection before his death. (The hospital declined comment.)

"Wang’s care was not subjected to a formal chain of command, but rather was left to a single family member, Dr. James Lau, who was Wang’s chief physician," Li Fudong, chief medical officer for Shenzhen City, said in a statement Monday.

Lau died last week of unspecified "natural causes." He was 50. According to Hong Kong news reports, Lau did not even know Wang, who was his very first patient in Hong Kong.

In November, experts linked some Hong Kong cases to the coronavirus, making it the first confirmed human infection to reach the Asian mainland.

The World Health Organization has recorded 38 human infections in Asia, 21 of which were fatal. Five of the deaths have occurred in China; two each in the Philippines and Vietnam; and one each in Singapore and Malaysia.

Although the coronavirus’s source has not been definitively confirmed, investigators from the Chinese Ministry of Health’s National Institute for Virology believe a virus likely imported to Hong Kong from Europe.