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- 12 04 2003 - 21:19 - katatonik

Carlo Urbani (1956-2003)

Carlo Urbani, born in 1956, an Italien epidemologist, was an expert in parasitic diseases of schoolchildren and had worked in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. He was married and had three children. He was president of “Doctors without Borders” Italy during the period when the organisation received the Nobel Prize for peace.

His last job was with the World Health Organization’s office in Hanoi.

When hospital officials called to report that Johnny Cheng, a sick US businessmann, was infecting doctors and nurses with pneumonia, Urbani was the first to respond.

On March 5 Urbani called his regional supervisor in Manila, reporting a case of bird flu. Since early February, WHO had been hearing reports that hundreds of people in southern China were getting sick with what sounded like a strange form of pneumonia. Over the next week, Urbani kept going back to the hospital in Hanoi to take samples and to work with the staff there. The staff started to get sick. Urbani got sick.

“Carlo was the one who very quickly saw that this was something very strange. When people became very concerned in the hospital, he was there every day,” said Pascale Brudon, the WHO representative in Hanoi.

By March 11, dozens of health care workers at the Hanoi hospital were sick, including several who were critically ill, and the facility was overwhelmed. Officials shut it down and imposed a quarantine. Urbani had been transferred to a hospital in Bangkok.

Johnny Cheng died on March 13.

On March 12, WHO issued an alert, warning that a mysterious flulike illness appeared to be spreading in parts of Asia. Outbreaks were reported in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand. Cases appeared in Toronto, and elsewhere outside Asia. Measures were taken, restrictions imposed. In Hanoi, some people suffering from the disease presently known under the acronym SARS got better.

On March 29, Carlo Urbani died in a Bangkok hospital bed.

SARS means “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome”.

Sources:
Washington Post article (annoying popup survey alert!). The above text contains a few passages directly copied from this article.
WDR Quarks & Co. SARS-Chronik, including a photograph of Carlo Urbani.
La Stampa obituary (Italian)

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