Johns Hopkins at Keswick building evacuated after several become ill

16 employees transported by ambulance after complaining of nausea, light-headedness; facility closed Wednesday as investigation continues

Several employees at the Johns Hopkins at Keswick complex in north Baltimore reported feeling ill Tuesday morning, prompting a precautionary evacuation of a building there.

According to the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, 16 people were transported by ambulance to local hospitals after complaining of symptoms of nausea, upset stomach, light-headedness, and headache. The Baltimore Fire Department ordered a precautionary evacuation of the south building, where approximately 700 university and health system employees work. The north building was not evacuated and there were no reports of illness there. None of the employees' conditions were considered life-threatening, the OEM said.

As of Tuesday night, the cause of the outbreak of illnesses remained under investigation by city and state health authorities. In order to allow them to conduct their work, and to ensure the health of employees, both buildings at the complex—north and south—will be closed on Wednesday, university officials announced late Tuesday. Employees should not report for their regular work assignments in either building, officials said.

All EPIC training classes scheduled for Keswick on Wednesday are canceled. Leaders of units located at Keswick will advise employees of arrangements to work from home or, where possible, an alternative location.

A decision about Thursday operations is expected to be announced later Wednesday afternoon.

Fire Department medics responded to a call for an unknown illness at 9:58 a.m., the OEM said. Upon arriving, they found several people with similar illness symptoms and requested additional medical and hazardous materials resources. The Fire Department, EMS and Hazardous Materials Unit found no airborne safety issues.

The Johns Hopkins at Keswick complex (formerly the Zurich Insurance complex) is composed two buildings—the north building, built in 1970 and renovated in 1999, and the south building, built in 1981. It is a mixed-used facility that contains nearly 415,000 square feet of space.

Employees assigned to the south building were released for the day after the evacuation. Employees in the north building were asked to remain at work according to their normal schedules. The two buildings are on separate air handling systems.

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