Pasta Sauce Triggers Hazmat Probe At SoCal Hospital

ORANGE, Calif. (AP) - A bag of powdered alfredo sauce triggered
the partial shutdown of a hospital emergency room Friday.

Authorities closed a 10-bed wing of the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital and scrambled a hazardous materials response team
after a walk-in patient reported feeling ill, then dropped a bag filled with a mysterious substance to the floor, city of Orange fire Capt. Ian MacDonald said.

A police officer responding to the scene also reported feeling sick when he came into contact with the substance. Both he and the
walk-in patient were quarantined.

Turns out the contents of the bag were "an empty herbal vitamin
package with residue still inside and powdered alfredo sauce mix,"
MacDonald said.

Ambulances were diverted to other hospitals for about four hours
while parts of the emergency department were shut down.

Police, firefighters, sheriff deputies and FBI agents responded, while the Anaheim Hazardous Materials Response Team tested the powder.

"We had certain red flags - an unknown subject walking into an
emergency department with unknown substance. And after she was
feeling ill, an officer felt ill. With that criteria, we were treating the incident as a worst case scenario," MacDonald said. "It turned out to be a best-case scenario."

MacDonald said the patient and the officer were in good condition.

Police Sgt. Dan Adams said the officer who responded "didn't feel as ill as everyone thought he did. He just reported a sore throat."

Adams could not explain why investigators and the patient failed to communicate about what was in the plastic bag, but he said medical personnel were evaluating her for mental health problems.

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

AP-NY-05-02-08 2255EDT

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