Coffeyville, Kansas distribution center shut down Monday night due to mystery illness

Tuesday, December 13th 2005, 4:24 pm
By: News On 6

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) -- Employees working at the Coffeyville distribution center of Inc. became ill with apparent food poisoning and were taken to three area hospitals early Tuesday, with 19 of them admitted.

Patricia Smith, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based Internet retailer, said "100 or so" workers became ill and about 35 were taken to hospitals. Smith, speaking from a distribution center in Nevada, said the company believed the illnesses were caused by a
catered holiday meal served to workers.

She said it was one of several meals provided for employees during the busy pre-Christmas period and that the company was working with health officials to determine exactly what made workers sick.

Smith said employees working the night shift were sent home after symptoms started to appear, with work resuming on the day shift Tuesday morning.

Jerry Marquette, chief executive officer of Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, said more than 20 people were seen in his hospital's emergency room between a little after 2 AM. and about 5:30 AM Tuesday, with a few more trickling in since. He said other patients were routed to Mercy Hospital in Independence and Labette County Medical Center in Parsons.

Marquette said eight people had been admitted to the Coffeyville hospital. William Mahoney, CEO at the Labette County hospital, said all of the approximately 10 people brought there were admitted. At Mercy, which received six people, one was admitted, marketing director Joanne Cox said.

Marquette described the situation at the Coffeyville hospital as "pretty well under control."

"They were just pretty sick people," he said. "But they're going to get better quick."

Marquette said officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Montgomery County Health Department were at the hospital to help investigate the cause of the illnesses.

"It looks like some type of food poisoning, but we can't put a handle on it yet," he said Tuesday morning.