Mysterious illness sickens 19, prompts evacuation of New Hampshire hospital

EXETER, N.H. (WHDH) — After a day-long investigation, the source for what sickened nearly 20 hospitals workers at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire remains a mystery.

Nineteen staff members working in an operating room suddenly fell ill Friday morning and were treated for symptoms of dizziness and nausea. Video from Sky7 showed a large staging area outside the hospital, where several people on stretchers could be seen undergoing treatment.

Emergency responders wore protective suits as they swept the building. Hospital officials said just before 8 p.m. Friday that hazmat crews with state did not find anything unusual or dangerous in the hospital. Authorities said they felt confident with the hospital returning business as usual because all if the tests came back negative.

Assistant Fire Chief Eric Wilking said officials sampled air, filtration and everything in the operating room and emergency department, and found “nothing that would have caused this.”

Hospital officials said an “unknown source sickened” only staff members and that no patients were affected. One patient was said to be in surgery when the staffers started feeling sick.

“There was one person who has having surgery at the time, and did very well, and is recovering now. The surgery went absolutely normal,” said Dr. Neil Meehan, an Exeter Hospital physician.

Dozens of firetrucks and ambulances from surrounding towns and cities responded to the scene. Officials deemed the incident to be a mass casualty situation because the number of reported victims exceeded the resources normally available from local departments.

Many of the victims were treated at the scene and sent home. Some people with more serious symptoms were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

The operating room and emergency room were “turned back over to the hospital staff” just before 8 p.m. Friday.

The hospital said they will thoroughly clean the facility as an added precaution. Hospital management hopes to have the ER reopened by Saturday, and the OR back up-and-running by Monday.

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