The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared India free of the killer Sars virus, just a day after the country reported it had 20 cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared India free of the killer Sars virus, just a day after the country reported it had 20 cases. “India has no cases that fit the Sars definition,” Dr SJ Habayeb, the WHO representative to India, told a news conference in Delhi. On Wednesday, the Indian Government said the number of cases of the mysterious respiratory disease had risen from 10 to 20. The announcement fuelled fears about the ability of the country, where more than a billion people live, to control the spread of the disease. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) has so far killed more than 380 people around the world. Addressing the same news conference, Health Minister Sushma Swaraj said the government had been “very, very cautious and that today the WHO is giving us this certificate”. Dr Habayeb said despite the WHO announcement, Sars remained a threat to India. He said laboratory tests for Sars were not reliable. Definition India declared its first case of the illness in the western state of Goa two weeks ago. Ms Swaraj said the patient had now recovered and that all subsequent cases had only been suspected cases. WHO’s definition of people at risk of Sars states that the patient has to either have travelled to a Sars-affected country, come in contact with a Sars patient or have a temperature of 38C. A temperature at this level appears to follow infection by the Sars virus. Ms Swaraj defended the government’s handling of the Sars outbreak. “The government wanted to keep people informed, not spread panic and not be accused like China of hiding the real situation,” she said. “We will not just maintain but strengthen our preparations and we see no cause for complacency in this case.” (Source: BBC, Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK)