US: 150 suffer suspected food poisioning at Buddhist monastery

Putnam County health officials have determined that roughly 150 people got sick after eating food that was brought to the Chuang Yen Monastery in Kent on Sunday during a Mothers Day celebration.

Chuang Yen Monastery
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Health officials collected several samples of food that visitors brought to the sprawling campus of the Buddhist monastery off Route 52 and have sent them to a state laboratory in Albany for testing, Rebecca Wittenberg, public health director for the health department, said today.

I know there have been some reports as to what caused the illness but, at this point, we do not know the cause, Wittenberg said this afternoon.

We may know when the test results come back.

She could not say when that might be.

About 700 people came to the monastery from New York City, Rockland, Orange and Westchester counties, as well as Connecticut. Roughly 500 of them came by bus from New York City, then left for a shopping trip to the Woodbury Commons outlet stores in Orange County, where many of them took ill.

The symptoms were limited mostly to vomiting and stomach cramps, although a few people experienced diarrhea, Wittenberg said.

Patients were taken to five or six hospitals, depending on where they first experienced symptoms.

Putnam health officials are working with other health officials to speak to each person who was treated for the illness to find out what they ate Sunday and when they ate it, she said.

Emergency responders in Woodbury treated about 60 people, sending roughly half of them to be evaluated at local hospitals.

For this amount of people, at one time, this gets classified as a MCI massive casualty incident,

said David Sutz, an emergency medical technician with the Woodbury Community Ambulance.

Sgt. Cliff Weeks of the Woodbury police said the first patient was a 91-year-old woman. He said 20 victims were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, St. Lukes Cornwall Hospital in Cornwall and Orange Regional Medical Center in Goshen to be treated for symptoms believed to have been caused by food poisoning.

One of the biggest concerns (with this illness) is the risk of dehydration, Wittenberg said.

If you did take ill and you havent been evaluated, we would ask people to speak to their medical provider or access an emergency room to seek treatment.

Health officials are also asking anyone who ate at the monastery Sunday and got sick to call them at 845-808-1390 and press zero to speak with a receptionist.

She also urged anyone who took home leftover food from the event to throw it in the trash.Kent Police Det. Gerald Locascio said there does not appear to be any criminality in the incident and that investigators are working with heallth officials to determine which dish may have caused the outbreak.

Tuesday, 15 May, 2012 at 09:05 (09:05 AM) UTC RSOE

Update: Sticky rice balls are suspected as a possible culprit, Town ofKent Police Det. Gerald Locascio said Monday.

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