BREAKING NEWS: Chinese Institute Suppresses News on Disease Outbreak

  • More than 90 people may have been infected with Brucellosis in a veterinary institute.
  • The institute is preventing the news from spreading by deleting related posts.
  • Panic is rising among students in the institute.

Around mid-November, researchers at Lanzhou Veterinary Institute found that the genetically modified mice that they were using for an experiment could not get pregnant. They dissected one mouse and found out that it had Brucellosis. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, “Brucellosis is a zoonosis highly contagious for humans” which can lead to “fever, headache, weakness, profuse sweating, chills, weight loss and general aching.” If not treated early and properly, it can even cause infertility.

The worst part is, even after being cured, the infected will always carry the bacteria in their cells, meaning the infected will need constant tests to avoid relapses for the rest of their lives. Aware of what they were facing with, these researchers rushed to the hospital. Two of them were positive. Like most accidents in China, the leaders of the institute chose to block the news from spreading.

One teacher made fun of the students’ panic.

On November 24, eight researchers and students were infected, most of whom work at the same laboratory. People started to panic. They wrote in the students service Wechat group asking for responses from the institute. However, only one teacher replied and he refused the students’ proposal to organize everyone in the institute to get tested. He claimed that only those who directly touched the mouse could get infected and he sarcastically advised the students to reread textbooks on Brucellosis.

In the next two days, as more students (around 20) got a positive result, the institute started to pay more attention to the incident. They organized a seminar with doctors, the aim of which was to assure the students that treatment is easy and to ask them not to spread the news. The nearest hospital also stopped giving the test result to the students online. They needed to go to the hospital to receive the result, during which they were told to keep quiet again.

The institute acknowledged the outbreak in a Wechat group.

This Wednesday (December 4), the institute finally organized a group test. The number of infected students escalated to over 40. This time, several national health departments sent people over to investigate the cause since a mass infection might not be due to mice.

Students wrote more in the student service group, but this time no one from the institute replied. On Thursday night, a meeting was organized for all the students, during which the leaders beat around the bush and did not respond to critical questions. Some students were crying, one even tried to jump off the building but got saved by other students.

According to a post on Zhihu, the latest number of infected is 91. More than two weeks after the outbreak related posts on Weibo are still being deleted right away. The same thing happens on Zhihu, only one thread showed up when searching, which will be deleted soon without a doubt.

In 2010, something similar happened at Northeast Agricultural University. Twenty eight students and teachers contracted Brucellosis from goats. That accident ended with compensation of around $9,000 for each infected and a lifetime pf free tests and treatments. Two high level leaders were fired. This time, it’s still not clear how the story will end.

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