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Seven people were evacuated from a duplex in Virginia, MN, on Sunday morning because of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, according to news reports. In addition, numerous first-responders also needed medical attention.

The condition of those involved in the incident is unknown.

Several people were airlifted to other medical facilities after being diagnosed at Essentia Health-Virginia, according to a Virginia Fire Department news release. The local hospital assessed two firefighters, two city police officers and a St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office deputy for exposure.

Visitors to the residence reported the emergency to 911. “They’re the ones who discovered something wrong, and they were counted as part of the seven who, at the very least, were exposed,” Battalion Chief Kevin Poffs told the Duluth News Tribune.

Emergency personnel responded to the residence on the 1200 block of 19th Street South shortly after 10 a.m.  Sunday morning.

The cause of the poisoning is unknown. The Virginia Fire Marshall, who is leading the investigation, enlisted a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialist to assist in the probe.

CDC: CO poisoning kills 400 yearly

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the following yearly statistics in regards to CO poisoning in the United States:

  • more than 400 people die from unintentional CO poisoning
  • more than 20,000 people get sick enough to visit a hospital emergency room
  • more than 4,000 people are hospitalized.

In Minnesota:

  • 14 people die due to unintentional CO poisoning every year, and 307 people make emergency-room visits, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms have been required in new homes in the state since January 2007, and they have been required in existing single-family homes since August 2008. CO alarms need to be installed within 10 feet of every room lawfully used for sleeping purposes.

Carbon monoxide facts

NE Minnesota carbon monoxide poisoningCarbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when heating systems are not working correctly. After inhaling CO gas, the CO molecules will displace the oxygen in the body, and without oxygen, cells in the body will die and organs will stop working.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can produce numerous symptoms:

  • flu
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • queasiness or vomiting.

As symptoms persist and worsen, they can include:

  • confusion
  • blurry vision
  • shortness of breath
  • sleepiness or unconsciousness
  • chest pain or heart palpitations.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by many sources:

  • running cars in attached garages
  • gas water heaters
  • kerosene space heaters
  • charcoal grills
  • propane heaters and stoves
  • gas- and diesel-powered generators
  • cigarette smoke
  • spray paint, solvents, degreasers, and paint removers.

What you should do

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and suspect that carbon monoxide might be the cause:

  • leave the area immediately and move into fresh air
  • call 911
  • visit a hospital emergency room.