The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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First virus scare in country ebbs

Mumbai, April 8: The “fast improving’’ condition of Rebecca Raleigh today killed rumours she was afflicted with the dreaded Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Rebecca, an American freelance photographer, was yesterday rushed to two hospitals here, one after the other, after news spread she was infected with the mystery virus.

Late last evening, Rebecca was shifted to Jaslok from Kasturba hospital, where the doctors had said she was being treated for a “kind of pneumonia”.

Her recent travels through China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Thailand — all present on the high-risk list for SARS — had added to the panic of an edgy medical fraternity and public.

Doctors attending on Rebecca at Jaslok hospital here today allayed fears SARS had finally reached India. “It is 99 per cent sure the patient is not suffering from the virus,’’ they said.

Epidemiologist Jayraj Thanekar said he was “confident’’ the American national, in Mumbai since April 3, did not have SARS. “The checks are almost through and we are certain she does not have the virus.’’

Rebecca was suffering from a common viral fever with throat infection, “the kind that happens to foreigners in a hot country like ours’’, he said. She will, however, continue to be in isolation and under observation for seven days.

She is undergoing a test called the “P chain reaction” — said to be definitive — the final results of which are expected in a day or two. Doctors from the National Institute of Virology, Pune, are conducting other tests.

A guarded state health minister, Digvijay Khanvilkar, said conclusive reports on Rebecca’s infection should be out by tomorrow. “Even if the patient was (found to be) suffering from SARS, the entire machinery has been geared up (to tackle the situation),” he said.

He also assured Opposition members he would talk to the home ministry about their demand that Rebecca be “sent home instead of being treated (here)”.

Hyderabad fear

A suspected case of SARS virus was reported in Hyderabad. A software worker who may be carrying the virus arrived from Singapore hours after doctors gave the all clear to Rebecca Raleigh. The passenger, identified as David Raphael Anthony, 48, travelled to India from Australia via Singapore. He had high fever, cough and cold — symptoms of the virus, which has killed more than 100 people worldwide.

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