Catholic Students Sickened At Church; Cause Sought

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A Good Friday service was canceled abruptly when several dozen people, mostly children, became ill at a Roman Catholic church, prompting an evacuation as officials searched for a cause.
Those sickened at the St. Martha parish church complained of such symptoms as dizziness, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath, said Dr. Neal Richmond, director of Metro Emergency Medical Services.
No serious illnesses were reported, but 35 children and one adult were taken to local hospitals to be checked out, he said. Several others were treated at the scene by emergency workers.
About 400 people were attending the Friday morning service when
the illnesses broke out, Richmond said. The service was canceled and the youngsters attending returned to the St. Martha Elementary School in the same building, said Louisville archdiocese spokeswoman Cecelia Price.
The principal ordered an evacuation and notified authorities when more students became ill, Price said.
Authorities carefully searched the facility but found no signs of gases or chemicals, Richmond said.
"There were no detectable levels of anything, including carbon monoxide," he said.
An altar boy fainted during the service, and then a number of other people became ill, Price said.
Richmond suspected that hot, stuffy conditions in the church contributed to the illnesses.
"Ironically, for this time of year, I think it was actually a case of heat exposure," he said.
Richmond said another factor might have been "a bit of an anxiety element."
Pupils already were scheduled to be dismissed at noon for Good
Grace Kaelin, who arrived to pick up her fifth grader, told The
Courier-Journal of Louisville that she saw fire trucks and other emergency equipment and became worried.
"It was kind of frightening when you don't know what is going on," she said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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