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Skunk cabbage suspected as 14 people sickened in Sullivan County

April 14, 2008
FORKSVILLE — More than a dozen people were taken to area hospitals late Sunday afternoon after they became ill from eating skunk cabbage, according to borough Fire Chief Randy Rosbach.

“A total of 14 people, ranging from children to those in their 60s, were transported from the scene, including at least one who was flown to Geisinger Medical Center (Danville) because he had previous medical problems,” Rosbach said.

The helicopter landed in a hayfield along Route 87 in the borough.

Those who became ill ate a meal together at private property along Wilcox Road, about four miles north of the borough, Rosbach said.

Emergency medical technicians from the borough, along with ambulances from Dushore and Mildred were dispatched about 5:20 p.m. to the property “for two patients reportedly suffering food poisoning,” Rosbach said.

Paramedics from Towanda Memorial Hospital also were sent to the scene.

“When the EMTs arrived, they found multiple people who were ill and sick to their stomach,” Rosbach said. Additional ambulances and paramedics from Hillsgrove and Towanda were called to the scene.

“During the meal, the group thought they were eating leeks. However, it turned out to be skunk cabbage, which likely had been picked from the surrounding woods,” Rosbach said.

“They still had some of the cabbage in the home, and upon showing it to the emergency responders, it was determined that the plant was what made everyone ill,” he added.

As the group found out, Rosbach said, eating such cabbage can make one quite sick. He said those who became ill were taken to Towanda Memorial and Williamsport Hospitals in addition to Geisinger.

Rosbach said it was expected that most of those who became ill would be sent home Sunday night.

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