Answer the call, heed warning, cooperate with control measures
It was March 29, 2003 in a Bangkok hospital that Dr. Carlo Urbani lost his 18-day battle against the SARS virus, which was a newly discovered strain of corona. Dr. Urbani, a 46-year-old physician with Medecins Sans Frontieres specializing in infectious disease, responded to a call to the World Health Organization that came in from a small hospital in Vietnam. When he arrived, the clinical staff at the Vietnam French Hospital of Hanoi became concerned that they were dealing with an influenza-like infection.
Dr. Urbani confirmed that this infection was indeed a novel, highly infectious and virulent pathogen. As the death toll rose, he and much of the staff remained in the hospital, closing themselves off to the outside world in order to protect their families and the public.
He further convinced Vietnamese authorities to begin quarantine efforts at the Vietnam French Hospital and initiated innovative contagion control measures at outlying hospitals. Eventually, his control and containment methodology was implemented across the country. The Vietnamese government, at the behest of Dr. Urbani, made a plea for further professional assistance from the WHO, MSF and Centers for Disease Control.
He was convinced that the containment of this horrific disease was a critical decision. He made this bold decision, even though it risked damaging the economy and shattering the public’s confidence. His courage, as well as the undaunted commitment of fellow clinicians, halted this deadly pathogen, saving countless lives.
Dr. Urbani and the clinical team of the Vietnam French Hospital shed light in the darkness of this lethal virus by their immediate response to quantitative analysis, and decisive action; especially by adhering to disease-control measures.
As a physician assistant and scientist, I understand the call to the microscopic battlefield to fight pathogens that would try to take lives. As the Delaware State Treasurer, I understand the impact on our economy and financial well-being. As a member of the public, I understand the drive to exercise our freedoms despite recent recommendations to contain COVID-19.
Yet I too, ask you to consider the lessons learned years ago by Dr. Urbani and his dedicated staff, and remember him as you sacrifice through these difficult days. He sacrificed his life to leave a lesson for all of us. Let this lesson not be ignored.
In my opinion, for the best results in stopping and ultimately eradicating this terrible pathogen, it is the time for all of us to listen, heed, respond courageously and act appropriately; ultimately saving lives and protecting all our citizens. We are all in this together.
Colleen C. Davis
Delaware State Treasurer