SARS rumours in city unfounded
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: There have been no cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) found in Lahore, the Punjab government and hospital administrators told Daily Times on Wednesday.
There were reports that a man, named only as Tauseef and said to be from Samanabad, went to Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Services Hospital and Mayo Hospital on Tuesday night and tried to get himself admitted as a SARS sufferer. The administrations of the hospitals said he gave no contact number or address.
“A man, Tauseef, and two others who said they were reporters, came last night at around 10pm and said he was suffering from SARS. He claimed he returned from China last week. We found he was suffering only from flu and seasonal fever,” said Services Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Riaz Ahmad Chaudhry.
Dr Chaudhry said Tauseef was given a thorough check up in an isolation ward, set up especially to treat SARS patients, and was found to be SARS free. He said there five senior doctors had been deployed in the ward to handle any potential emergency.
Dr Chaudhry said Tauseef was given medicine for his flu and sent on his way. He said people suffering from SARS would be unable to go to the hospital on their own let alone visit three, and added he had heard Tauseef also went to Jinnah Hospital.
Tauseef then reportedly made his way to Shaikh Zayed Hospital with the two ‘reporters’ and again made the complaint that he was suffering from SARS “The duty doctor, Dr Azeem, checked the patient immediately and declared that he had seasonal fever and flu, but referred him to the isolation ward in Services Hospital to be sure. The patient did not mention he had already been there,” Shaikh Zayed Hospital Administrator Dr Abdul Saboor told Daily Times. Assistant Administrator Dr Akbar gave much the same account.
The administrator added that the patient stayed for only eight to ten minutes, because the hospital is centrally air-conditioned and they couldn’t take the risk of a person with the virus spreading the disease through the ventilation system.
The patient apparently also went to Mayo Hospital and repeated the assertion that he had SARS.
Mayo Hospital Principal Executive Officer Prof Mumtaz Hassan said there was no SARS patient in his hospital. “We have not found any SARS patient in the city. The people spreading such information should refrain from spreading panic,” he said.
The Punjab Health Department deputed a representative, Dr Jaskani, to check the three hospitals, but he found no record or reliable reference to the patient.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Tahir Ali Javed said there were no SARS patients in Pakistan. He said it was not possible for a person to survive untreated for 10 days after being infected by the virus, so the story that Tauseef picked up the disease in while in China was unlikely. Dr Javed asserted the government was aware of the danger and had taken precautionary measures.
According to infectious disease specialists, a patient should only be suspected as a possible SARS case if he/she exhibits the following symptoms: fever, cough or breathing difficulties that have progressively worsened over a couple of days along with a history of travel from one of the affected areas. The SARS virus is highly contagious and it is unlikely that an isolated sporadic case will be found. Case in point is the apartment building in Hong Kong where almost all residents became infected within a week alone.