PROVO, Utah — Dozens of local church members are recovering after being exposed to carbon monoxide in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouse in Provo on Sunday.
"Everybody kind of knew there was something going on because it was really cold in the church," said Brian Fiso, a ward member at the church. "It was just really cold and really didn’t notice there was an issue until we had some people come into our room when we were having our meeting and they said we need to evacuate."
Prior to that notice, Fiso walked home to grab a blanket due to the temperature in the building.
His three family members were part of the 60 churchgoers who experienced symptoms from the exposure. Fiso was one of the fortunate ward members in the building who was not impacted.
"My wife came home after church, she laid down on the couch and kind of just knocked out for about three hours and just wasn’t feeling well," Fiso said. He ended up taking all three of his family members to a local hospital for treatment later Sunday night. They didn't require additional treatment, but 24 of their fellow ward members required hyperbaric treatment — a high-flow oxygen treatment.
"Hyperbaric reduces the prospects and risk for brain-related injury, but not perfectly," said Dr. Lindell Weaver, the medical director for the Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital. "The reason we do this is carbon monoxide triggers an immune response. It triggers inflammation in the body, in the brain, and hyperbaric has the opportunity to block some of that."
Health officials are using the mass-exposure incident as a reminder to the public: check your carbon monoxide detectors regularly and have your furnace inspected annually.
"Any place you have a heating source that goes bad, poisoning can follow," Weaver said. "If you breathe enough carbon monoxide, you will die."
As of Monday afternoon, all patients at Intermountain Medical Center that were receiving treatment for Sunday's exposure had been released.