Sun, Sep 21, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Three hospital staff poisoned by heavy metal

CAUSE UNKNOWN:Two surgeons and nurse at Tzu Chi Hospital have fallen victim to thallium poisoning, and the ex-girlfriend of one victim is being investigated by police

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan has recorded its first thallium poisoning cases in more than a decade, with three medical staff at the same hospital falling victim and the cause remaining unknown, doctors said yesterday.

The three victims are two orthopedic surgeons and a former nurse of the Taipei Tzu Chi General Hospital in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店), said Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s Clinical Toxicology Division, which has been treating them since last month.

One of the surgeons, identified only by his family name Wang (王), first showed symptoms of hair loss and an upset stomach last year, but gradually recovered, according to a case study presented yesterday during the 2014 Workshop on the Diagnosis and Management of Poisoning at TVGH.

In May this year, the 31-year-old also began suffering from deteriorating vision, slowing reaction times, impaired speech and movement, and Mee’s lines on his fingernails, and went to National Taiwan University Hospital for help, said Lee Chun-yu (李君右), a resident physician of the university hospital, who presented the case.

Wang was transferred to TVGH last month after his condition worsened, and doctors began considering heavy metal poisoning as a cause, TVGH toxicologist Wu Ming-ling said.

Wang’s two colleagues, including the nurse who no longer works at the Tzu Chi hospital, also went to TVGH and were diagnosed with thallium poisoning, TVGH said.

Since Wang was repeatedly poisoned, Wu said his recovery would take longer, while the other two, who were exposed to thallium just once, are likely to fully regain their health within three months.

Sindian police launched an investigation because Wang suspected he had been deliberately poisoned by the nurse, who was his girlfriend before they broke up in May.

However, no evidence was found to support the allegation or to prove that the poisoning was caused intentionally, police said.

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