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WHO says India is SARS-free: Sushma Swaraj
May 01, 2003 18:07 IST
The World Health Organisation has described India as a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-free country, Union Health Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Delhi on Thursday.
"As on date, India can be called a SARS-free country," she told reporters after reviewing the situation at a high level meeting in Delhi.
Although 20 persons have tested positive for the SARS virus, none of them have fallen in the WHO definition of the killer disease, she said.
Briefing newspersons after the Centre-State Joint Action Group reviewed the situation, she said though 20 cases were found to be SARS positive in laboratory tests, WHO dictates that mere lab diagnosis is not enough to declare a person as suffering from SARS. The person should also have clinical symptoms.
"None of these cases fall within the purview of the WHO definition," she said.
"Tests are only supportive and corroborative. If lab diagnosis is positive, but clinical and epidemiological proof is not there, we do not take it as SARS probable," she said.
WHO representative to India Dr S J Habayeb, who attended the meeting, said the laboratory tests indicating that there were at least 19 confirmed cases in the country were 'absolutely not reliable'.
Asked whether the government was not aware of the WHO definition earlier, she said, "We were very cautious. Rather overcautious. We wanted to be very transparent as the general public will not understand the difference between probable and suspect cases."
Stating that India was not a 'locally-transmitting' country, Swaraj said that WHO had placed India initially as a 'reporting' country.
"Now WHO has removed India from that category also," she said.
To a question whether there would be any slackness on the level of alertness, she said, "There will be no complacency on our part or on the part of state governments."