Vietnam, Italy hold commemoration ceremony for Dr. Carlos Urbani

The Italian Embassy in Vietnam, the World Health Organization, and Vietnam’s Ministry of Health will hold a ceremony to commemorate Dr. Carlos Urbani, an Italian doctor who died after contracting SARS while working to eradicate the disease from Vietnam in 2003.

The event will take place at the Public Medical University in Hanoi on April 11 within the scope of ‘Italy Year in Vietnam 2013’.

Dr. Carlo Urbani was a medical expert working in Vietnam for the World Health Organisation. He was the first to identify severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as a new and dangerously contagious disease.

Although he became infected and died, his early warning to WHO touched off a massive response that probably helped save the lives of millions of people around the world.

Chinese-American national, Johnny Tran, transmitted the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) to Vietnam in 2003. The man was rushed to Viet-France Hospital in Hanoi after he experienced fever and respiratory problems.

The hospital contacted WHO for help. Dr. Carlo answered to the call and arrived in Vietnam. He soon found out the bizarre characteristics of the case and was quick to set up his workroom at the hospital, collecting data and sending the patient’s samples for testing and tightening infection control procedures in the hospital.

In response to his call for strict isolation, the hospital medical staff agreed to live in the hospital to avoid spreading the disease into the community.

A few days later, WHO representatives in Vietnam including Dr. Urbani convened a four hour urgent meeting with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, in which the ministry decided to segregate all medical staff from the community and set up higher infection control procedures as well as call for help of all medical organizations in the world.

Medical staffs in 10 countries were quick to verify the culprit of the disease and set up a standard diagnosis. Accordingly, they stamped out the disease totally.

However, Dr. Urbani was unlucky as he caught the infection. He asked people around him not to come in contact with him and 18 days later he succumbed to the disease. Medical circles around the world felt an extraordinary outpouring of grief following his death and they all paused for a moment’s silence to remember the life of this outstanding physician.

By Mai An - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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