50+ Olivet College students tested; only 3 sick

Students stand in front of Blair Hall at Olivet College. (Sept. 10, 2014)

OLIVET, Mich. (WOOD) – Only three of the more than 50 students living in the same Olivet College dorm who appeared to fall ill earlier this week were in fact sick — but not from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to college officials.

It all started when the three Blair Hall students became ill, experiencing headaches and vomiting. After all three fainted on at some point on Wednesday between midnight and early afternoon, the Olivet Fire Department started checking the dorm for elevated carbon monoxide levels out of caution.

Emergency personnel also started performing field screenings on Blair Hall residents to check for elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Within 25 minutes, 17 students either said they felt ill or had abnormal screening results.

After the testing began, college officials urged any students who had any symptoms to get tested as a precaution.

More than 50 students in all were tested for carbon monoxide exposure at a local hospital.

Friday, college authorities said all of the tests came back negative, and none of the students had elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. Fire officials tested the buildings on the college’s campus Wednesday and also found no elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

Olivet College Dean and Provost Maria Davis Ph. D. said Friday all three of the ill students had pre-existing medical conditions, like gastroenteritis or dehydration. She likened the situation to a mother testing their child’s forehead for a fever.

“If she thought you felt warm, she might go to get the thermometer. The field testing that was done on our students was, in a way, like a hand to the forehead,” Davis said in a release. “Once the students got to the hospital, the more precise measurements able to be completed from a blood sample showed no evidence of carbon monoxide exposure.”

Students were allowed to return to Blair Hall Thursday.

“I’m not faulting the students in any way,” Davis said. “If they had any concerns… if they needed peace of mind. We didn’t know what this was.”

She added the situation was a good exercise to test the college’s response, should another emergency arise.

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