Drug tests change illness into alleged poisoning case

By Wang Chun-chung, and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Nov 01, 2013 - Page 3

Parents yesterday claimed that the results of drug tests conducted on their youngsters after they were hospitalized on Friday last week came back positive, turning what had been thought to be a case of mild food poisoning into a case of alleged drug poisoning.

The students had been attending a cooking class at Kunshan Senior High School in Greater Tainan and had eaten cake made in the class and drank black tea before they were hospitalized with symptoms similar to those for food poisoning.

Ten students from Chongming Junior High School and one from Kunshan were hospitalized.

Chongming head counselor Hu Chao-yi (胡朝義) said the school had conducted tests on the black tea and students’ urine samples, adding that both results came back positive, and the school considered that the black tea was to blame as some students said it tasted odd.

Of the 11 students that were hospitalized, three are still in hospital, though their symptoms of involuntary tremors and shortness of breath have ameliorated, Tainan Municipal Hospital deputy superintendent Chen Yi (陳怡) said.

Samples were taken on Friday last week and sent to a lab at Taipei General Veterans Hospital for analysis, the bureau said.

Veterans’ Department of toxicology resident Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌) said that he had already received the samples and would have the results within three to five days.

Yang said that he was not excluding the possibility that the students ingested adrenergic receptor agonists, which often includes drugs such as amphetamine or MDMA.

Adrenergic receptor agonists are usually metabolized within six to 12 hours and the students should be fine, Yang said, adding that there can be no conclusive answer on what the students had ingested before the lab results come out.

Tainan City Government’s Bureau of Health head Lin Sheng-che (林聖哲) said on Wednesday, when he visited the students who were still in the hospital that their symptoms were not like food poisoning.

Lin, who was a doctor by profession before entering governmental service, said that the students’ involuntary hand tremors were due to abnormal electrical current output in the brain, adding that such situations were usually indicative of rare viruses or the remnants of heavy metals, pesticides or other drugs.

Lin said that he could not determine what was actually causing the condition until he had seen the report.

Additional reporting by Meng hing-tzu and Wei Yi-chia