India's SARS count climbs to 10 amid red alert
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India's SARS count climbs to 10 amid red alert

India's SARS count climbed to 10 on Tuesday as the Government warned against panic on the issue.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2003 22:51 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

India's SARS count climbed to 10 on Tuesday and more suspected cases came to light, even as the government warned against panic and insisted the situation was under control. Govt has already declared a red alert throughout the country in view of the SARS.

Even so, the authorities were drawing solace from the fact that no deaths from the killer pneumonia had been reported so far in India.

"Even in Goa, where India's first case was reported, there have been no reports of further spreading of the virus," said an official of the health ministry here who did not want to be named.

"We have stepped up measures to screen for SARS at airports and ports and deployed more doctors. We are determined to prevent the spread of SARS," he said.

After Pune's D'Silva family survived a scare, it was the turn of a family in Tamil Nadu's Vellore to be quarantined as the disease was confirmed in a man working in Singapore who had arrived in India on a holiday.

The patient was admitted to hospital on Friday after he complained of ill health. Fourteen members of his family have been quarantined.

The family of Stanley D'Silva in Pune in Maharashtra was released from quarantine after being declared free of SARS.

D'Silva had returned from Indonesia carrying the SARS virus and infected his sister, mother and uncle as well as the driver of the taxi in which the trio had travelled.

In Kolkata, the confirmation of the second SARS case on Monday night triggered a scare as a third of doctors and paramedical staff at the state-run Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) shunned work on Tuesday for fear of contracting the virus, which has claimed around 300 lives worldwide and infected 5,000.

Radheshyam Gupta, who returned from Bangkok, is Kolkata's second SARS victim after Asitava Purakayastha. Due to the shortage of staff, the hospital could not complete the diagnosis on another suspected patient, Jamil Ahmed.

A Chinese crewmember from a ship that arrived at Mangalore has been kept under observation. Ching Chung Huang's ship had come from China, where the maximum number of people had died of the virus.

Amid more cancellations and rescheduled flights across the country, Air-India Tuesday de-recognised the Indian Pilot's Guild (IPG) for "anti-organisation activities" by refusing to fly to SARS-hit countries.

The airline accused the IPG pilots of tarnishing its name and moved against 18 more pilots for refusing to operate flights to Southeast Asia, taking the total number of suspended pilots to 45.

Several flights from New Delhi and Mumbai to destinations in the U.S. and the Middle East were cancelled or rescheduled Tuesday even as executive pilots and retired pilots were being pressed into service to tide over the temporary crisis.

The government has also augmented measures across the country for quicker detection of the virus.

While only the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) here and the National Institute of Virology (NIV) at Pune were testing for the virus till now, facilities would soon be available at four more institutes in Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune shortly.

Medical experts warned that health authorities needed to do more to tackle the disease as SARS had entered the "local transmission" phase in which Indians who had returned to the country carrying the virus were now infecting fellow citizens.

"The cases in Pune (D'Silvas) were an instance of local transmission, and with this we have entered the second phase in the spread of infectious diseases," said K.K. Agarwal of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Matters have been compounded by an apparent lack of coordination between health authorities in New Delhi and other states.

Though the number of SARS cases in India is low compared to other South Asian countries, health workers are worried that any complacency on the part of the authorities could have disastrous consequences for the world's second most populous country.

First Published: Apr 29, 2003 22:51 IST