JEFFERSON COUNTY — The Mt. Vernon Fire Department Hazmat Team responded around 10 a.m. Thursday morning to a situation on Illinois 148 near Waltonville after EMS crew members became ill while transporting a non-responsive male patient.

According to Fire Chief Kevin Sargent, three members of a Litton’s Ambulance crew reported becoming ill while transporting the man to the hospital. Four Waltonville Fire Department first responders also reported becoming ill along with one Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy. Two family members of the unresponsive man also reported feeling ill when going to the hospital on their own and were also treated.

Sargent says the Mt. Vernon Fire Department’s Hazmat Team was called to the scene and they completed a “gross decontamination of everyone involved on the roadside of Route 148 near Nason, everyone at the scene was transported to SSM Good Samaritan for a more detailed and complete decontamination.

The hospital was contacted prior to their arrival and put in place a Code White to avoid further cross contamination.

The man who was initially unresponsive was stabilized and admitted to the hospital.  A few more were held for four-hour observation, while the rest were treated and released.

Sargent says the situation was handled as if the unknown chemical was a synthetic opiod, but the hospital won’t know for certain what the chemical was for at least four weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine.

Potential exposure routes of greatest concern include inhalation of powders or aerosols, mucous membrane contact, ingestion, or exposure secondary to a break in the skin – such as with a needlestick.

Any of these exposure routes can potentially result in a variety of symptoms that can include the rapid onset of life-threatening respiratory depression.