The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 6, 2014

Update: Carbon monoxide suspected of sickening 30 in Springfield school

Carbon monoxide poisoning suspected

By Amanda Dyslin
The Mankato Free Press

---- — SPRINGFIELD — Carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected to have caused 30 children from Springfield Public School to be taken to Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield Thursday.

Lab tests indicated some of the patients had higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, said Micah Dorfner, spokesman for Mayo Health System in Mankato. By Thursday night all had been discharged.

Scott Thoreson, hospital administrator, said the elementary-age patients had symptoms including nausea and headaches. Hospital staff gave the patients oxygen.

Thoreson said just after 9 a.m. the local ambulance service alerted the hospital there would be an influx of patients coming from the Springfield school, where students in the auditorium had felt faint and sick to their stomachs. The school’s 600 students were evacuated.

Eleven children were initially brought to the hospital, and that number had grown to 27 by midday, partly from parents who had picked up their children and noticed symptoms. The final number of patients by day end was 30.

Thoreson said the patients were being held for observation and several had been discharged Thursday afternoon. He said all the patients had similar symptoms, and none had to be transferred to other bigger hospitals.

“We’re monitoring the patients, and we’re seeing how they’re doing and releasing them as their symptoms subside,” Thoreson said Thursday afternoon.

He didn’t know the specific ages of the students being treated, but Amanda Horkey, a parent of a sixth-grader, said many fifth-graders were among those affected.

Horkey said the school, which houses grades K-12, was evacuated and students were taken to the community center. The school was closed for the day.

Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato staff went to Springfield to deal with what Kevin Burns, regional director of public affairs, called a “large-scale event” due to the number of people affected. Medical staff from St. James also responded, and Mayo One was on standby in Springfield.

“We have activated our emergency response plan. That is a structure that allows us to make sure we have adequate staff and other resources and procedures in place to respond to an event such as this,” Burns said. “We practice this with local law enforcement and first responders on a regular basis. … Because of that and because we take this very seriously, we’ve been able to respond very well to this large-scale event in Springfield.”

Authorities did not release a cause for the suspected carbon monoxide problem.