Investigation reveals no source for illness reported by students

An intensive investigation has not determined what caused Wake Forest University students to feel ill Monday night while attending sorority social activities in Benson University Center.

Approximately 50 students and at least two people working in the building reported symptoms including nausea and dizziness Monday night. At least two students fainted in the building, and one was taken to a local hospital, where she was treated and released. Two food service workers in the building were also treated and released from a local hospital.

University Police Chief Regina Lawson said Tuesday that University and city and county officials did not find anything in Benson Center that may have caused illness. In addition, there is no evidence that anyone did anything to cause people to be ill.

“We have no reason to suspect foul play of any sort,” Lawson said.

Some students reported smelling a gaseous odor in the building in the early evening, just before students became ill.

“We were unable to determine what exactly students smelled,” Lawson said. “We do know that there is no gas service of any kind to that building.”

At this point, investigators do not suspect that any food or beverages may be responsible. No alcohol was served at the activities.

“We appreciate the prompt response by the Emergency Medical Service and the Special Operations Response Team to treat the students,” said Lawson. “Of course, we also are grateful to the city fire department, and its hazardous materials team, for its work.”

The building is operating on its normal schedule today.

If any students feel ill today, they are encouraged to contact the University Student Health Service.

The incident began about 7:30 p.m. Monday when University Police learned that a female student had fainted in Benson Center. Soon, it was reported that two other students were ill, and at least one had fainted. One of those who fainted was taken to the hospital for treatment.

A city fire official ordered the building evacuated, and a hazardous materials team from the fire department entered the building to check for anything in the air that might have caused a problem. Nothing was detected by the investigators, who checked for such things as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, natural gas and gasoline fumes.

University staff also searched the building with air monitoring equipment to search for potential sources of the illness. They also found no evidence of anything unusual in the building’s air.

While the building was searched, the county’s Special Operations Response Team and Emergency Medical Service set up in the university’s cafeteria to tend to students and others reporting they were feeling ill. All students had been seen by approximately 11 p.m.

Several hundred people were in the building Monday night, including perhaps 300 female students attending two sorority recruiting activities. Those students reporting illness were attending one particular sorority event on the building’s fourth floor. The other sorority, involved in a similar event on the same floor, reported no problems.

Students who became ill were helped from the building by other students.

At this point, university officials have concluded their investigation, but will respond immediately to any new information that might help determine what caused the illness reports, Lawson said.

Categories: University Announcement