SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) and the teaching of Carlo Urbani in Vietnam: a lesson from history almost 20 years after SARS.


Carlo Urbani
History of Public Health
Vietnam outbreak


Carlo Urbani was an infectious diseases expert for Health Organization (WHO), who in 2003, first identified Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) as a new and highly contagious disease. In February, 2003, an American businessman with an unknown lung disease was admitted to a hospital in Vietnam. Doctor Urbani immediately understood that it was a new virus and right after he alerted the WHO and the Vietnamese government; he involved also foreign doctors in the investigation of this case. He advised the authorities to immediately implement quarantine measures and thanks to his quick and unyielding response, the spread of the virus could be stopped quickly, many patients were identified and early isolated. His early warning to the World Health Organization triggered a swift and global response credited with saving numerous lives. He shortly afterwards himself became infected and died. The shut down of Vietnam’s first outbreak was really a very important step for the whole world community and the Urbani’s quick actions were crucial because ensured an early detection of SARS and an effective response from international community.


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