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WHO says India is SARS-free: Sushma Swaraj

WHO has described India as a SARS-free country "as on date", Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday.

india Updated: May 02, 2003 12:40 IST

Health Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday announced that the World Health Organisation had certified that India was SARS-free as none of the suspect cases fit WHO's definition of the disease. She admitted her ministry had over-reported the number of SARS cases in the country.

The announcement follows HT's report that WHO continued to insist India had just one case of SARS, despite the Centre's tally of 20.

Said WHO representative in India, Dr SJ Habayeb: "The lab tests are not reliable, absolutely not, and India has no cases that fit WHO's definition of SARS."

WHO said India has had only one positive case - Prasheel Vardhe in Goa. Said Swaraj: "Since he is all right now, even his case has been taken off the WHO list."

Agreeing that India had jumped the gun in reporting cases, she said, "We had kept the media updated with lab results because we did not want to hide anything, unlike China."

Both Swaraj and Habayeb could not explain why the health ministry had not got its SARS cases verified by the WHO earlier. "I think India has just been extra-cautious in reporting the cases under suspicion," said Habayeb.

Sushma claimed the lab tests were positive because some of the genetic material of the corona virus had been found in the blood samples of the suspect cases. The diagnostic tests in use are only 50-60 per cent accurate.

SARS according to WHO

Suspect case: Has travelled to affected countries or has had contact with infected person 10 days before onset of symptoms

Probable case: Suspect case with pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome on chest X-ray

Diagnostic tests: No validated diagnostic test exists for detection of corona virus. Clinical data and contact history should be correlated with lab tests

First Published: May 02, 2003 00:00 IST