Global perspective Human stories

Annan pays tribute to UN doctor who died of respiratory illness he first identified

Annan pays tribute to UN doctor who died of respiratory illness he first identified

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today paid tribute to Carlo Urbani, the first United Nations officer to identify the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) who later died from the very same disease.

In a message to a memorial service in Hanoi, Viet Nam, held in honour of Dr. Urbani, the Secretary-General said had it not been for his recognition that the outbreak of the virus was something out of the ordinary, many more would have fallen victim. "It was the cruellest of ironies that he lost his own life to SARS while seeking to safeguard others from the disease," he said.

Dr. Urbani was the first World Health Organization (WHO) officer to identify the outbreak of the disease in an American businessman who had been admitted to a hospital in Hanoi. As a result, global surveillance was heightened and many new cases isolated before spreading the infection further, the agency noted.

"Dr. Carlo Urbani dedicated his life to helping protect and save the lives of others. It was characteristic of his vigilance, professionalism and expertise that he was instrumental in ensuring an early response by the international community to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome," the Secretary-General said.

Mr. Annan expressed his deepest condolences to Dr. Urbani's wife and children, as well as colleagues, saying, "I hope you will know that he will be missed greatly by his other family too - the United Nations family - and that he leaves an inspiring legacy among the global public health community as a whole."

The latest figures from WHO indicate there have been more than 2,671 reported cases of SARS and 103 deaths globally.