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Maharashtra seeks US funding to buy masks

Maharashtra has sought U.S. funding to purchase special masks and other equipment to combat the SARS, officials said.

india Updated: May 01, 2003 11:48 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Maharashtra has sought U.S. funding to purchase special masks and other equipment to combat the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), officials said here Wednesday.

The state wants Rs.10 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with India having at least 10 confirmed SARS cases, five of them in Maharashtra.

Senior health officials, including state Health Minister Digvijay Khanvilkar, director-general of health services Subhash Salunke and health secretary Navin Kumar, decided on the request.

Officials say the money will be spent on purchasing special N95 masks for healthcare personnel dealing with suspected SARS cases. Though the central government was approached for 1,000 of these masks, these were not provided to Maharashtra, officials here say.

With no funding coming from the central government either, the state decided to approach USAID, the officials say.

The N95 mask is made of special cloth that can filter spores or particles that are larger than 0.3 microns. N95 is an efficiency rating by America's National Institute of Safety and Health which means it can filter 95 percent of particles that are 0.3 microns or larger.

The mask is particularly effective in combating tuberculosis and anthrax spores, both of which come in the range of one to five microns, experts here say.

In all five people had been diagnosed with SARS in Maharashtra. The D'Silva family contracted SARS from their son, Stanley who returned from Indonesia earlier this month. He is said to have contracted SARS on board the aircraft and had infected his mother Vimal and 26-year-old sister Julie.

Stanley had come home to attend Julie's wedding. The ceremony was conducted behind closed doors. Stanley's uncle Joseph Pawar and the driver of a taxi in which he travelled have also tested positive, according to health officials.

All of them are said to be free of the disease though, according to health officials. SARS has reportedly claimed over 350 lives worldwide, most of them in Asia.

First Published: Apr 30, 2003 22:38 IST