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No TB epidemic in Chinese university: official
Updated: 2005-04-05 09:50

The Beijing Center for Tuberculosis Prevention and Treatment Tuesday refuted rumors that tuberculosis (TB) is spreading widely in Beijing-based China Agricultural University, saying that there is no epidemic and people have no reason to worry.

An Yansheng, head of the center, said the five students confirmed to have tuberculosis are under medical treatment and no more cases from the university have been diagnosed.

"We have tested 550 students and no more cases have been found," said An. "It is not an epidemic."

The Agricultural University found its first TB case on Jan. 17,when a student in the Veterinary Department came to the campus clinic because of physical discomfort. He was diagnosed a week later.

Another student from the same department was diagnosed on March 7 after he returned from his hometown.

Ten days later, a third student was diagnosed with TB because he was coughing up blood.

According to the university Website, five cases have been confirmed, three infectious and two non-infectious. Three cases were from the Veterinary Department, one from the Agriculture and Biological Techniques Department and the other from the Resources and Environment Department.

Rumors about the disease abound around the campus. Students left messages on the campus Website saying there were actually more than 70 students in the Veterinary Department infected with TB and the university was trying to hide the fact. Students in other departments were scared to talk to those in the three departments with infections, the Beijing News reported.

"We want the university to tell us the truth, but no one explains what is going on," a student told the paper.

"We are not hiding anything," said Qian Xuejun, head of the university publicity department, "It should be the health authority, not the university, to claim if there is really an epidemic or not. We believe it is not serious and we don't want toarouse panic."

Accord to An, the university has been cooperating with the TB prevention and control department in Haidian District and the municipal health departments since the cases were found. In the first group of 90 students who underwent physical examinations, 72 students were "strongly positive," which means they were infected by TB virus.

"Testing 'strongly positive' does not mean you have the disease.China has a high proportion of TB positive and the ratio in this university is still normal," said An.

The second group of students had the test in late March. An said there were no more cases found among them.

"The five students have been given medical treatment and are being monitored. Those who are strongly positive have been given preventive medicines. Everything is under control," An said.

According to their research, there is no specific source of the infection and health officials cannot confirm that the same infection was transferred among the five students.

Although people are worried about the disease, campus life goes on normally. "I have heard a bit of it, but my work is not affected at all," said Gu Xiaohong, a teacher in the English Department.

"Most students in my department are not disturbed, and all classes are going on as usual. There have been no apparent measures taken by the university," she said.

Liu Yuqing, head of the Haidian TB Prevention and Treatment Department, said 10 to 15 percent of positive people catch the disease, especially when stressed or tired when it can weaken the immune system. The students who tested positive do not have to worry as long as they care themselves and have regular activities,she said.

She said the rumors and worries come from ignorance about TB. "A lot of people do not know what TB is and how it is transferred among people. Few know the difference between being positive and having the disease. We should work harder to inform people."

An said, "We fear media reports might bring negative attention to this incident, but we also know the media can help us educate people. We hope the reports can clarify the case and kill the rumor."

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