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Flashback: before swine flu,there was SARS

The swine flu outbreak in Mexico has revived memories of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) six years ago...

Pune |
May 1, 2009 1:41:06 am

MEMORIES OF AN EARLIER SCARE : Docs who treated patient recall quarantine

ANURADHA MASCARENHAS

The swine flu outbreak in Mexico has revived memories of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) six years ago,when Pune had its share of anxious moments.

Dr Vijay Sethiya,Medical Director of Siddharth Hospital at Gultekdi,recalls how Stanley D’Silva,who had returned from Indonesia,went for a medical check-up to his clinic on April 17,2003.

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“He had a cough,a sore throat and weakness and Dr Anand Kench admitted him to the hospital,” Sethiya reminisced. On April 19,his mother Vimal was also admitted. On April 22 Stanley was discharged from the hospital,only to be sent into quarantine with his mother and uncle Joseph Pawar.

Suspecting symptoms of SARS,they contacted the National Institute of Virology (NIV) and tests returned positive. PMC and state health officials were informed. “It was a huge challenge for us,” recalled Sethiya. “We had to literally stop our daily routine and shut the out-patient department from April 22. The D’Silvas,though discharged,went into quarantine at the state-run hospital till further instructions,and my entire staff of 22 and seven indoor patients had to wait in the hospital. It was only on April 26 that our blood samples were sent to NIV,” he added.

On April 30 the NIV informed the hospital that at least nine employees had tested positive for the presence of the corona virus in the preliminary test. “My hospital lost goodwill; it became very frustrating to be confined to the hospital,” Sethiya said.

It was only on May 3 that the quarantine ended. “Looking back I can say it is highly essential to create awareness among people and allay wild rumours about the disease (swine flu),” Sethiya said.

SPOILT WEDDING Brother positive,she couldn’t be with groom at reception

SUNANDA MEHTA

As Archana Alhat walks around her house at Kumar Park Society,there is not a trace of the harrowing time that she and a dozen members of her family went through six years ago when her cousin Stanley D’Silva became the first person in Pune and among the first in the country to be declared SARS-infected.

What compounded the situation was that Stanley had flown in from Jakarta for the wedding of his sister,who along with a score of relatives were declared susceptible and put into quarantine.

The bride,Julia,was in fact whisked away by authorities from the church to the hospital immediately after her wedding,leaving the groom to attend the evening reception without her by his side.

“It was the most difficult phase of our lives. The wedding was spoilt,all of society ostracised us and we lived for days with mortal fear for our lives. The worse thing is that today we are not even sure whether it was SARS at all,or just one big scare,” said Alhat,as she looked around her apartment in Bibwewadi where she and 10 other relatives were quarantined for about a fortnight,while Stanley,his mother Vimala,sister Julie and uncle Joseph Pawar were admitted in Siddharth Hospital.

“Every family in the building,barring one,vacated their homes and the society asked for our eviction. I guess it made sense but it hurt. It was most terrible for Julie as the best day of her life was ruined. The church was declared off limits,the few guests were out in quarantine and she was taken away in her wedding gown from the church to the hospital. We were under house arrest here and could not step out with two hefty guards posted at the door,” Alhat said.

Things returned to normal in a month. Doctors held a meeting with the housing society to assure them that there was no danger to anyone. “Everything is fine now. Julie is happily married and a mother of three,while Stanley works in Dubai and got married last December. God got us out of it safe. Guess now we should just be glad that we got so famous,for whatever reasons,” Alhat said.

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