Carlo Urbani was a fantastic Marchigian doctor and exceptional person. He died on March 29, 2003 of SARS, a disease we had little to do with in Europe because it mainly occurred in Asia and parts of North America.
First of all, we owe to Carlo Urbani that this very dangerous SARS virus from 2003 did not spread worldwide like the current SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that can trigger the lung disease COVID-19). On February 28, 2003, an American businessman with an unknown lung disease was admitted to a hospital in Vietnam, where he worked for “Doctors Without Borders” and for the World Health Organization (WHO). The Marchigian doctor Urbani immediately understood that it was a new virus and immediately alerted the WHO and the Vietnamese government and also directly involved foreign doctors in the investigation of this case. He advised the authorities to immediately implement quarantine measures.
On March 11, on a flight to a SARS conference in Bangkok, he himself felt that he was getting a fever and asked for immediate hospitalization and isolation after landing. He had immediately realized that the SARS virus had infected him, and he continued to study as much as possible until the end so that science could learn more about this disease. Unfortunately, he died in Bangkok on March 29 of this new lung disease. He did not allow his children to visit him or say goodbye to him so that they could not get infected.
Thanks to his quick and uncompromising response, the spread of the virus could be stopped quickly and the number of registered victims remained very limited at under 900.
But Carlo Urbani was not only exeptional because of his discovery of the SARS. He was born on October 19, 1956 in Castelplanio, one of our neighboring municipalities. Even as a young man, he volunteered for various organizations that looked after the less privileged both in Italy and in developing countries.
In 1981 he completed his medical studies and specialized in infectious diseases and tropical medicine, initially as a doctor in Castelplanio, at the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Ancona and in the Macerata Hospital. He became a consultant to the WHO and joined “Doctors Without Borders” for whom he went to Cambodia. He became head of the Italian section of Doctors Without Borders just the year the organization was awarded the famous Swedish Nobel Peace Prize.
After Cambodia, he was transferred to Vietnam, where he worked at the Hanoi hospital until his death.
Contemporaries describe him not only as an intelligent and committed doctor, but also as a multi-talented and interested person who loved art, music and poetry as well as the adventurous flying in the hang glider (he seemed to love flying over the Marchigian hills). He was by all means what we can call a philanthropist.
He never saw himself as a hero, so we want his sister, who sometimes joins the hiking group in our place Cupramontana, to have a say:
In the look of every professional caretaker who is risking his life these days and in the look of all those who have not made it, in the look of those who are suffering now, I find my brother Carlo’s look again, exactly 17 years after his Death. There are no heroes. It is women and men who stand up for the suffering and who have made this the true purpose of their work. I now dedicate my thoughts to all of them every day.
To Carlo Urbani’s honor, hospitals, schools and other locations were named in Le Marche and throughout Italy.
Here on Youtube there is a nice documentary about him (Italian with English subtitles), where his brother and mother also have their say in addition to contemporaries:
I think that, to his and everyone’s respect, we should stay home and follow every government’s measures.
If you want to do something for our region, which is severely affected by Corona / Covid-19, I recommend a donation to the Associazione Italiana Carlo Urbani, who collect donations for medical protective equipment for the “Carlo Urbani” hospital in our neighbouring town Jesi. Under this link you will find the IBAN: L’AICU PER EMERGENZA COVID-19