Lab Technician, Lanzhou Medical Laboratories
Lei Tan grew up in Lanzhou, one of the largest cities in northwest China. She has remained close to home, earning a college degree in biology from Lanzhou State University in 1980. She has worked as a lab technician in Lanzhou Medical Laboratories since 1994.
. What was the public reaction about the stories of fatal flu in an area largely unaffected by SARS?
People here werent sure what to make of the reports at first. We heard that a new disease had broken out, but Guangzhou is so far away from here that most people werent concerned. I have friends in Guangzhou, so I knew more about how panicked people were there. When the government issued a report saying the flu was contained, people were relieved. But not long after reports would come from Hong Kong or Beijing or other cities that the flu had spread there. People started to worry that Lanzhou might be next and some people bought a lot of cold medicine, thinking it would help keep them from catching the disease. Luckily, the flu never came to Lanzhou.
. What was happening in your lab during the SARS outbreak?
We heard reports of the fatal flu in Guangzhou and tried to secure some patient samples so we could research the disease. We have the best machinery in the region here at Lanzhou, but we were told by officials with the Ministry of Health that without knowing more about the disease and its level of veracity, they could not risk moving samples so far across the country. They were concerned that the virus might escape and spread the outbreak to another region.
. What is your position with Lanzhou Medical Laboratories and where is your lab located?
I am a lab technician in Lanzhou. Our lab focuses on medical research, especially in virology. Lanzhou is located on the Yellow river and is one of the most western major cities in China. About 3 million people live here. I have lived in Lanzhou all my life, so I know the city very well.