Upstate Mother’s Day Celebration Sickens 150
An annual Mother’s Day event at a Buddhist monastery in rural Putnam County, NY, was interrupted yesterday afternoon as participants began suffering gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. The event drew hundreds to the Chuang Yen Monastery, and delawareonline.com states that about 500 arrived by bus from New York City’s Chinatown. Food for the event was provided by volunteers, similar to a pot luck supper.
Susan Hoffner, a spokesperson for the Putnam County Health Department, states that approximately 150 people were taken ill. Symptoms of the illness include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. Many became ill after they left the event. By evening, the Times Herald-Record states that local emergency services had received reports of dozens of cases of illness in travelers between the monastery and New York City. The outbreak is believed to be caused by some form of food poisoning.
The Kent, NY, police department responded to the incident. Detective Gerald Locasio, a spokesman for the department, said that four officers from Kent and assistance from the Woodbury Police Department, responded. Fifteen patients were transported by ambulance from the area of the monastery. While there were some language barriers, Locasio said, there were enough English speaking individuals who could translate. The monastery shut down food service when notified of the problem. Detective Locasio states that there is no current indication that the incident was criminal in nature or that there was terrorist involvement. The investigators are working closely with the Putnam County Health Department.
The Putnam County News and Recorder reports that several fire and ambulance agencies from the region responded to the monastery as calls flooded the Putnam County 911 center. Triage was performed by EMS personnel on site and some patients were taken to nearby hospitals.
In Orange County, buses transporting people from the event stopped at a local shopping mall, where some of the travelers became ill. About two dozen patients were taken to local hospitals from this location. A spokesman for the Orange County Regional Medical Center, located in Middletown, estimated that around a dozen patients were treated and released from their facility. St. Luke’s Hospital in Cornwall reports that it treated eight from the incident. All were released. Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern also treated and released several patients.
Health Department Response
The Putnam County Health Department will be working with experts from the New York State Health Department to investigate the outbreak. Peter Constantakes, spokesman for the NYS Department of Health, said that the DoH has personnel on the ground in Putnam County at this time working with the county health department. The followup with patients is requiring the DoH to translate the standard questionnaire into Chinese. They will also need to translate the answers when they are received. Constantakes stated that any outbreak follow up in Chinatown would be conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. If there is any indication that the illnesses resulted from a food product sold commercially, the Centers for Disease Control would be advised of the situation.
This entry was posted on Monday, May 14th, 2012 at 5:27 pm and is filed under EMS, Medicine, Original writing, Original writing, Reporting. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.