Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Heroes of SARS

Remember SARS? Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome exploded out of China in early 2003 and frightened the entire world. Over 8,000 people were infected, and nearly 800 died. The epidemic was over by the summer, thanks to coordinated efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO), doctors who risked their lives to treat patients, and a military doctor who defied his government to break the Chinese policy of secrecy about the disease. Pictured is Dr. Carlo Urbani, an Italian epidemiologist who ultimately died of SARS.

After two weeks attempting to master the mysterious disease, Dr Urbani was exhausted. Eventually his wife and superiors persuaded him to take a break, and he decided to travel to Thailand, where he was scheduled to present a lecture at a medical conference. On 11 March, as his plane flew high above the dense jungle of Indochina, Dr Urbani developed a headache. Soon he spiked a fever and began coughing. Upon landing, he was met by a CDC colleague. Dr Urbani was quite aware of his symptoms' likely cause, so warned his friend not to approach, and called for an ambulance. For some time the two men sat in silence, facing each other across a hopefully-safe distance while the paramedics assembled their protective gear. One thing was certain: the Bangkok medical conference would be missing a speaker that year.

Read the entire story at Damn Interesting.

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