04282017Headline:

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80 employees treated for exposure to unknown substance at NJ courthouse

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The courthouse in Monmouth County, NJ remains closed today as officials determine what has caused about eighty employees to fall ill since last Friday.

The Monmouth County Courthouse closed and sent all employees home at 1 p.m. on Monday, and remains closed today, as a precaution until the State Police Hazardous Materials Unit identifies the substance that has caused illness in a large number of courthouse employees.

On Friday, 17 employees became ill and sought medical attention. Doctors diagnosed some of those as having an allergic reaction. All affected employees have since been released.

Officials thought the cause of the illness was cut flowers in an employee area of the courthouse’s west wing. However, even after removing the flowers and performing a thorough cleaning of that area of the courthouse over the weekend, more than sixty employees fell ill on Monday. Twenty-five of the employees were transported to CentraState and Jersey Shore University medical centers for further evaluation. Emergency medical professionals at a triage area set up outside the courthouse treated the remaining employees.

“At the very least it was a respiratory irritant,” Dr. Michael Jones, head of the emergency department at CentraState Medical Center, told Pix11 News. “Saying beyond that, I don’t want to speculate.”

Symptoms reported by the employees included shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain, palpitations, rash and dizziness.

“For the safety and well-being of employees and individuals with business at the courthouse, the county is cooperating with the state Judiciary to close the building,” Deputy County Administrator Kevin Burke said in a release.

Officials said they do not believe there is a danger of person-to-person transmission of the illness. They advised anyone who visited the courthouse on Monday to shower and wash the clothes they were wearing separately from other clothes.

“If a courthouse employee or anyone having business at the courthouse is experiencing any of the symptoms, we encourage them to go to the emergency room or their private physician,” Burke said. “We also ask that they contact the county health department at 732-431-7456 to report any symptoms.”

The State Police Hazardous Materials Unit tested the building for volatile compounds on Monday, with negative results. That evening they tested for mold, dust and pollen but officials have not released results.