Carlo Urbani

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Carlo Urbani
Carlo urbani.gif
Born (1956-10-19)October 19, 1956
Castelplanio, Italy
Died March 29, 2003(2003-03-29) (aged 46)
Bangkok, Thailand
Education University of Ancona
Known for Identifying SARS
Medical career
Profession Physician
Institutions Médecins Sans Frontières
World Health Organization
Research Infectious diseases, parasitic diseases

Carlo Urbani (Castelplanio, Italy October 19, 1956 – Bangkok, Thailand March 29, 2003) was an Italian physician and the first to identify severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as a new and dangerously contagious disease.[1] Although he became infected and died, his early warning to the World Health Organization (WHO) touched off a massive response that probably helped save the lives of millions of people around the world.

In late February 2003,[2] Urbani was called into The French Hospital of Hanoi to look at patient Johnny Chen, an American businessman who had fallen ill with what doctors thought was a bad case of influenza. Urbani realized that Chen did not have flu, but probably a new and highly contagious disease. He immediately notified the WHO, triggering the most effective response to a major epidemic in history. He also persuaded the Vietnamese Health Ministry to begin isolating patients and screening travelers, thus slowing the early pace of the epidemic.

Due to the work he did in Hanoi treating SARS infected patients, Dr. Urbani became infected with the virus himself. On March 11, as he flew from Hanoi to a conference in Bangkok, Thailand where he was to talk on the subject of childhood parasites, Urbani started feeling feverish on the plane.

A colleague who met him at the airport called an ambulance. They sat in chairs eight feet apart until an ambulance arrived 90 minutes later, because its attendants stopped for protective gear first.

His Bangkok hospital room was an improvised isolation ward, so his wife could only talk to him by intercom. Ms. Chiorrini saw him conscious just once. As his lungs weakened he was put on a respirator.

In a conscious moment, Dr. Urbani asked for a priest to give him the last rites, and according to the Italian Embassy in Bangkok, said he wanted his lung tissue saved for science.

After 18 days of intensive care, Carlo Urbani died on 29 March 2003 at 11:45 AM.

Urbani received his medical degree from the University of Ancona and worked for a time as a general practitioner, before starting a career in infectious diseases. He was a past president of the Italian chapter of Médecins Sans Frontières and was one of the individuals who accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of that organization.[2] He was employed by the World Health Organization and based in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he mainly worked on combatting parasitic diseases, but was generally expert on infectious diseases. He was married and had three children.

Urbani had an argument with his wife, Giuliana Chiorrini, who said it wasn't responsible behaviour for the father of three children ages 4 to 17 to risk his life treating such sick patients.[3]

Urbani replied, "If I can't work in such situations, what am I here for? Answering e-mails, going to cocktail parties and pushing paper?"[4]


  1. ^ Coates, Sam; Asthana, Anushka. The Times (London) |url= missing title (help). 
  2. ^ a b McNEIL, DONALD G. Jr (April 8, 2003). "Disease's Pioneer Is Mourned as a Victim". New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Disease's Pioneer Is Mourned as a Victim, Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times, April 8, 2003

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