Carlo Urbani: A Hero of Our Times


On 18 April 2023, an evening charged with great emotional impact unfolded at the FSP International Book Center in Rome. The reason for this was the presentation of the book, The Legacy of Carlo Urbani. The Protocol that Saved Millions of Lives, written by Vincenzo Varagona and published by FSP Editions Italy.

In the text, the author recounts the story of the “SARS doctor,” recalling his personality, charismatic figure and legacy to humanity.

An Italian physician and microbiologist, Carlo Urbani was the first to identify and classify SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which broke out between 2002 and 2003 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The physician believed it was not a form of influenza as others thought, but rather a new and dangerously contagious viral disease. His prompt warning to the World Health Organization triggered a swift global response credited with saving numerous lives. Urbani himself contracted SARS while treating victims of the virus in Hanoi in 2003 and he died three weeks later. He is acknowledged internationally as a true public health hero because he understood that swift action was needed to contain the spread of the virus, and his anti-pandemic protocol (isolation and screening) significantly changed the way countries would, in the years that followed, deal with infectious diseases.