More employees report feeling ill at Johns Hopkins at Keswick

At least 11 employees report illness symptoms, including headache, nausea; complex's south building closed Tuesday

At least 11 employees reported feeling ill at the Johns Hopkins at Keswick complex in north Baltimore on Monday and seven were taken to area hospitals, a university official said.

The illnesses, which come less than a week after a similar outbreak of illnesses there that was linked to contaminated water, prompted the university to announce that the south building will be closed Tuesday as a precaution while investigators continue to try to determine what is making people sick.

City emergency and health department workers responded to the complex Monday afternoon after employees complained of symptoms similar to those that prompted last week's evacuation of the south building—headaches, nausea, and light-headedness. Testing conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Monday evening identified no likely sources in any part of the south building, university officials said in an email announcement sent Monday night around 9:30 p.m.

The announcement also said that no connection has been identified between Monday's illnesses and those last week. At least 23 reported feeling ill last week, which health workers said could likely be attributed to a hot water heater that harbored a source of nitrates and nitrites.

That hot water heater has been replaced, officials said, and the hot water system served by that heater has been repeatedly flushed and tested. Since then, the tests have been either negative for nitrates and nitrites, or at extremely low, normal levels. The kitchen, restrooms, kitchenettes, sinks, and other water outlets served by the implicated hot water heater have remained closed and off limits.

Other water systems in the south building have been tested, with the same negative results. The Keswick complex was closed last Wednesday, but employees returned to work Thursday and Friday, and no incidents were reported.

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. About 700 people work in the south building, and another 300 in the north building.

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