University in Northwestern China Concealed Tuberculosis Outbreak for a Month

November 30, 2018 Updated: December 2, 2018

Shangluo University, in northwestern China’s Shaanxi Province, suffered an outbreak of tuberculosis starting early last month, but the school and local government concealed the epidemic until a student shared the information with a news agency.

On Nov. 29, a sophomore student at Shangluo University told The Paper, a Shanghai-based state-run outlet, that students at the school had contracted tuberculosis earlier in the month. Most patients were seniors who lived in the same dormitory complex.

“The school has not told us how many people are sick, or how the outbreak happened. We only know that the infected dormitory and the corridor have been decontaminated,” the student told The Paper.

He said that on Nov. 20, the school administration arranged for everyone at the university to have X-ray examinations on their lungs in an epidemic-prevention vehicle, but didn’t tell them why. Many people posted messages on the school’s bulletin board to express concern about the outbreak and anger with the university for concealing the information.

Responding to inquiries about the outbreak, the head of Shangluo University’s medical operations only said that the school had disinfected the campus and the dormitory, and had arranged for students to receive epidemic-prevention exams.

A local government official of the Shangzhou District, where Shangluo University is located, said that the outbreak was controlled and that there had been no large-scale infection. But since the university and the local government only acknowledged the outbreak after it was reported by news media almost a month later, the public has questioned whether the epidemic is actually under control.

Schools in China often cover up outbreaks of disease and other health-related scandals.

The Taojiang No. 4 Middle School in Hunan Province concealed a tuberculosis outbreak for almost a year, beginning in 2016.

In 2016, Class 364 at the school had a few students dismissed due to illness, but it wasn’t until August 2017 that the school arranged for students to take blood tests, which found seven students were infected with tuberculosis. The school kept Class 364 in operation until Aug. 18. While 89 students went on sick leave, students in other classes were unaware of the situation.

By Aug. 19, most parents had their children checked, with dozens being diagnosed with tuberculosis. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Taojiang County, over the next few weeks, tested all students at the school. More than 30 students were found to have been infected and more than 20 were diagnosed with tuberculosis. In November, an additional 14 students were diagnosed with the disease. In total, at least 50 students were found to have tuberculosis, including 42 from Class 364.

Chinese media finally reported the epidemic on Nov. 15, but the Taojiang County CDC refused to disclose details.