Carlo Urbani (1956 – 2003), Castelplanio, Itali, treated diseases in Cambodia, Vietnam, and everywhere around the world and was first to identify SARS.
Urbani, an infectious disease expert with the World Health Organization, examined Johnny Chen, a Chinese-American businessman on Feb 28, 2003, with the symptoms of a suspected avian flu infection that turned out to be severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Urbani was working in a hospital in Vietnam collecting samples. He came there at a time when all the doctors and medical staff were in a state of panic. He rapidly determined that he was dealing with something quite strange and highly contagious. He was the first to draw the world’s attention to the new disease.
He instituted strenuous anti-infection measures informing the health authorities. The hospital was quarantined, so was the country – and Urbani was credited with shutting down the disease in Vietnam.
On March 11 Urbani flew from Hanoi to a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. He started to feel feverish on the plane and began to record every detail in his journal. In three hours’ time, a healthy doctor was brought down to a pitiful state. He had a hard time getting off the plane.
The last note in Urbani’s journal refers to the attempt he was making to let the welcoming party to not come close to him, gesturing everybody away.
They sat in chairs eight feet apart waiting for an ambulance that arrived 90 minutes later, its attendants stopping for protective gear first. Urbani saw his wife just one time, talking to her through an improvised isolation ward.
When his lungs weakened he was put on a respirator. During the last moment of consciousness, Urbani asked a priest to let his colleges know, that he wanted his lung tissue saved for scientific research.
Urbani died on 29 March 2003 at 1145 AM, spending 18 days in the intensive care unit.