How Vietnam beat the bug
HANOI, Vietnam (CNN) -- Vietnam has won praise for acting swiftly to become the first country to control SARS.
Although one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia, World Health Organization (WHO) experts say Vietnamese health officials were quick to acknowledge the potential threat posed by the virus and cooperate with international efforts to contain it.
Unlike China, which was accused of covering up cases in the crucial early days of the outbreak, experts say Vietnam's openness in reporting its cases was key in limiting its impact. (Full story)
WHO representative Pascale Brudon said Monday that Vietnam's "speed of action, leadership, and transparency shown by the government" was crucial
"To control SARS it is essential to identify the cases very fast, and isolate them properly so they cannot pass the disease onto others, and Vietnam did this very well."
But she warned that it was important to remain vigilant as "another case could enter Vietnam at any time."
The Vietnamese government, which has already closed its northern border with China, plans to spend about $2.6 million ensuring a second wave of disease does not enter the country.
The SARS virus arrived in Vietnam in February, brought into the country by a Chinese-American businessman who is thought to have caught the disease in Hong Kong.
In the subsequent weeks, that one so-called "index" case is believed to have been responsible for all of Vietnam's 63 SARS infections, including five deaths -- all among medical workers.
Among the dead was WHO communicable diseases specialist Dr Carlo Urbani, one of the first medics to examine the index patient and the first to bring to international attention what he identified as a new and potentially deadly infection.
His foresight and sacrifice were recognized in Monday's WHO announcement.
"Vietnam has paid a very high price, and WHO also paid a high price in Vietnam," said Brudon.
In response to Urbani's alert, the French-run private hospital where the index patient was treated -- Vietnam's only international standard medical facility -- was immediately isolated and closed to new admissions.
That bold move, experts now believe, was another critical step in stemming the spread of infection.
With the virus now considered under control in Vietnam, the WHO said it was lifting all travel advisories related to the country -- a move which comes as a great relief to the Vietnamese tourist industry.
"It is a very good day for all of us in Vietnam," added Brudon.