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Delhi directive to step up SARS scan

The World Health Organisation (WHO) may have declared India “SARS-free”, but the Bengal government has received a fresh directive from the Capital to “keep a close watch” on patients, suspects and people coming in from Southeast Asia.

State health secretary Asim Barman on Sunday confirmed receiving the Delhi directive and added that the Centre “has asked us” not to relax.

“Director-general of health services S.K. Agarwal called me and I told him that no new SARS case had been reported today,” said Barman.

As part of the health department’s precautions, officials are keeping track of the health condition of Calcuttans returning from the SARS-affected countries. “They might not have shown any SARS symptoms at the airport checks, but we are not taking chances,” said Barman. He added that the government would continue with its “random sampling”, though “all those being monitored are doing fine”.

Sunday recorded an improvement in the condition of the three SARS patients (Asitabha Purakayastha, Jamil Ahmed and Radheyshyam Gupta) and two suspects (Sisir Sanketi and Hazari Prasad), at the Beleghata Infectious Diseases Hospital.

The quarantine period for Jamil Ahmed, resident of Watgunge, will be pushed back by another 10 days, officials said. Jamil has been moved out into a separate room after his blood samples tested positive for SARS antibodies on Saturday at Pune’s National Institute of Virology.

The blood reports of Sisir Sanketi and Hazari Prasad are awaited.

“No new case has been reported in the past 24 hours and we are relieved with the current trends,” said director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee.

The expert committee on SARS will meet again on Monday to decide on the discharge date of the Beleghata patients. “Asitabha Purakayastha’s quarantine period is almost over, so a decision on his release will be taken,” Barman said.

The health secretary added that as a SARS patient must be quarantined at home for seven days after release, the state government had chosen to keep them at the Infectious Diseases Hospital during that period to play it safe.

The Airports Health Organisation has, meanwhile, requested the government to depute four additional doctors at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. At present, 14 doctors are manning the airport round the clock.

“We have also been asked to look after the domestic terminal in times of need. We need more manpower for smoother operations,” said deputy director of health Asit Choudhury at the airport.

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