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SARS patient put off by media hype
Sandesh Prabhudesai in Panaji | April 21, 2003 21:59 IST
"I am fully fit and in good spirits," says Prashil Varde, the first Indian to have tested positive for SARS.
However, he is miffed with the media for having made him and his family endure 'mental torture' after he tested positive for SARS.
"The media hype, baseless reports and the unprofessional attitude shown by a few put me, my family and friends through a lot of mental torture," he said two days after being discharged from the hospital.
Varde's travails began after he returned to India from a tour of Hong Kong and Singapore on March 30.
The 32-year-old-marine engineer suffered mild fever (up to 101 degree F) and severe backache between April 10 and 12, which is why he consulted doctors at the Goa Medical College Hospital.
Considering the SARS scare, he was admitted to the hospital and placed in an isolation ward. His blood sample was sent to the Pune-based Institute of Virology for tests.
He recovered enough to be discharged on April 12.
Varde was resting at his residence in Dhawali, Ponda town on April 16 when at night he got the news that he had tested positive for SARS.
As the news spread, the recently married engineer became an instant media celebrity, but for all the wrong reasons.
He was readmitted to the GMC Hospital on April 16.
Fortunately, his condition did not deteriorate and neither did he spread the disease to his family members, including his wife who was with him during the Hong Kong�Singapore tour in the last week of March.
He was discharged on April 18.
Varde is critical of the media for 'blowing up the issue'.
"Why can't our media handle it as gently as in the USA?" wonders Varde.
He pointed out that a veteran national newspaper even published names of some friends and relatives, whom he had met in Mumbai after returning from Singapore.
Yet another reputed TV news channel contacted him but cut him off midway even before he could explain his position.
The repercussion of this hype will affect many sectors, especially tourism, he warned.
"I am genuinely sorry for unknowingly creating a difficult situation for all known and unknown people I came across during this time. I would also like to sincerely thank all the people who have shown concern and supported me throughout this crisis," he stated in a written statement.
According to him, he and other passengers were neither screened nor any written proforma sought from them on their health status when they arrived in Mumbai from Singapore on March 30.
Initially, even the staff at the GMC was apathetic to his condition.
Even when he was initially discharged on April 12, none of the doctors told him to remain in isolation. Nevertheless, he took almost four days' rest before attending a birthday party on April 16.
Varde, who is waiting for a second test report of his blood, serum, throat swab and urine from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases from Delhi, is sceptical about the SARS detection tests being conducted in India.
Showing the computer printout of the latest WHO bulletin dated April 17 on 'SARS: Availability and use of laboratory testing', he read out the first paragraph: "Researchers in several countries are working towards developing fast and accurate laboratory tests for SARS."'However, until those tests have been adequately field tested and shown to be reliable, SARS diagnosis remains dependant on general diagnosis by doctors and a history of exposure to SARS patients' is what it says.
More reports from Goa