Carlo Urbani

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 12 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:825

Carlo Urbani

World Health Organization official who raised the alarm over severe acute respiratory syndrome

Infectious diseases expert Dr Carlo Urbani died from sudden acute respiratory syndrome just weeks after he had helped to identify it and alert the world to its dangers.

Urbani, who was a World Health Organization public health specialist in charge of malaria and other parasitic diseases, based in Hanoi, Vietnam, first came across the syndrome in a Chinese-American businessman. The businessman, who had arrived in Hanoi on 23 February, was admitted to the French hospital in the Vietnamese capital on 26 February with a suspected case of bird flu. But when his condition worsened, the hospital called WHO on 28 February and Urbani went over to examine him. Two days later, not only had the businessman's condition worsened, but several members of the hospital staff had developed similar symptoms: a dry cough, difficulty breathing, and a fever.

On 3 and 4 March, Urbani told the hospital to isolate all patients and staff with these symptoms to prevent spread of the disease. The hospital …

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