Further testing to be conducted for cause of illness

FREEHOLD, NJ – The Monmouth County Courthouse will remain closed tomorrow for additional testing of allergens – substances derived from plants, animals or items that can be found on people’s desks. Once the testing is complete, the courthouse will be cleaned again.

“All the tests so far have ruled out the most probable causes for the symptoms that were reported by employees and other individuals with business at the courthouse,” said William K. Heine, director of Public Information for the county. “We have ruled out possible causes that could be related to housekeeping, construction and general building maintenance.”

Tuesday night, the courthouse was tested for the presence of dust, pollen and mold on carpeting, chair fabric, desk surfaces and underneath desks. Nothing out of the ordinary was found. Levels of dust, mold and pollen were lower inside the building than outside the building.

To date, the county has checked the construction area of the courthouse’s East Wing and found nothing that would contribute to the symptoms of illness reported by the employees. Likewise, the heating and ventilation systems have been checked for leaks and none were found. The air filters in entire building were changed over the weekend and again on Tuesday. The county has also determined that there has been no change in the regular cleaning of the building.

“The county continues to work with the state Judiciary to resolve this issue,” Heine said.

On Monday, more than 60 courthouse employees reported symptoms of illness that included shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, rash and dizziness. A triage and treatment area was established outside of the courthouse where all individuals with symptoms were properly evaluated by emergency medical professionals. Thirty people were taken to area hospitals with symptoms that included rash or hives, elevated blood pressure and difficulty breathing.

After the courthouse was closed at 1 p.m. on Monday, the State Police Hazardous Materials Unit tested the building’s interior for 25,000 different compounds and found nothing that would have contributed to the reported symptoms of illness.  

The situation developed on Friday when 17 courthouse employees reported the same general symptoms of illness. Several individuals were confirmed to be diagnosed with allergic reactions. The affected area of the courthouse was thoroughly cleaned last weekend.

 “If a courthouse employee or anyone having business at the courthouse is experiencing any of the symptoms, we encourage them to go to the emergency room or their private physician,” Heine said. “We also ask that they contact the county health department at 732-431-7456 to report any symptoms.”

It is believed that there is no danger of person-to-person transmission. Anyone who was inside the courthouse since Friday should launder the clothes that they wore separately from other items. Individuals should also shower with soap and water as well.