Scientist who first discovered SAS dies

small logo

Dr. Carlo Urbani, the Italian scientist who first discovered Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), himself died of this new deadly viral illness March 29, 2003, according to Cebu Daily News health columnist Philip S. Chua, M.D., Chairman of Cardiovascular Surgery, Cebu Cardiovascular Center at Cebu Doctors' Hospital. Dr. Chua's article on Monday dealt with this deadly new virus.

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert in communicable diseases, Dr. Urbani, who was 46, was the first to identify this severe acute respiratory syndrome in an American businessman who had been admitted to, and subsequently died, in a hospital in Hanoi. Dr. Urbani died in Thailand where he was confined after becoming infected in Hanoi while working in the public health programs in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Authorities believe that Guangdong province in China was the most likely origin of the SARS infection.

WHO declared that Dr. Urbani's discovery allowed it to rapidly increase its surveillance and identify new cases and isolate them immediately to prevent them from infecting hospital staff and visitors. Without his brilliant detection, SARS would have remained a total mystery and could have spread around the world much faster, to a larger scale, and with a lot more deaths, than what it is today.

Speaker Jose de Venecia has volunteered to be quarantined after his arrival from China recently to determine if he is infected with SARS, following reports that some congressmen who attended the Philippine Solo Trade Fair in Shanghai, China, refused to be quarantined.

As of Monday, no cases of SARS have been reported in Cebu but two domestic helpers from Hong Kong are suspected to have this mysterious viral infection and are confined at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center last Saturday.

The total number of cases and death toll worldwide, as of March 31, 2003, were reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, in coordination with the Geneva-based World Health organization as follows: 1550 cases worldwide, with 60 deaths, majority of whom are in Asia. Canada, which had 37 cases with 3 deaths two days ago, now has a total of 100 cases, with no additional mortality.

"Individuals with flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention, especially if fever persists for more than 3 days, and especially if this is accompanied by some shortness of breath," recommends Dr. Chua.

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.