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Strong personal air freshener likely made Epping health workers sick, say hospital officials

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 10. 2018 10:15PM
Emergency crews responded to Epping Regional Health Center Thursday afternoon after 10 workers became sick. (Jason Schreiber/Union Leader Correspondent)

EPPING — A strong personal air freshener near an air circulation system is believed to be the cause of dizziness and nausea symptoms that hit 10 employees of the Epping Regional Health Care Center on Thursday, according to Exeter Hospital officials.

While Epping Fire officials had cleared the space as safe to occupy, Community Relations Director Deb Vasapolli said hospital executives decided to keep the building closed on Friday to do a full review of its HVAC systems.

All affected employees of Core Physician Services complaining of dizziness, nausea and chest tightness were taken to the Exeter Hospital’s Emergency Department, evaluated and then released.

No patients were affected, officials said.

The Epping Fire Department and other first responding agencies had ruled out any dangerous or hazardous conditions some time after the incident that occurred at 3 p.m. Thursday.

But Vasapolli said the air freshener was identified as the culprit by the hospital’s own staff.

“During a follow up inspection of the building concentrated in the area where the majority of staff were affected, we discovered a very strong personal air freshener that was located near the air circulation system that is now believed to have been the cause of the odor and the staff reactions,” Vasapolli said in a statement. “The symptoms directly corresponded with the arrival of the air freshener.”

This discovery also confirms the belief of hospital executives that it was a coincidence that this event came a year after 19 people became sick at Exeter Hospital, which is affiliated with Epping Regional Health Center.

Emergency crews were called to the hospital on Aug. 11, 2017, after several employees in the operating room department began feeling dizzy and nauseous. After an extensive investigation by the fire department and other agencies, officials were unable to determine a cause.

The building will reopen for normal operations on Monday.

“We want to thank all the staff in the building and the fire departments from Epping and surrounding communities for the quick, thorough, and professional response. We are greatly appreciative of the support we receive from our local first responders,” Vasapolli said.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this caused our patients on Thursday and Friday.”

Public Safety Health Epping

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