Mystery Illness Shuts Melbourne Airport Terminal

One of Australia's main airport terminals has been shut after 53 people suffered nausea, vomiting, dizziness and respiratory problems, but officials said they could not find the cause of the illnesses.

Mystery Illness Shuts Melbourne Airport Terminal

One of Australia's main airport terminals has been shut after 53 people suffered nausea, vomiting, dizziness and respiratory problems, but officials said they could not find the cause of the illnesses.

Forty-five people were taken to hospital and hundreds of travellers left stranded when the Virgin Blue domestic terminal in Melbourne was evacuated on Monday. The Formula One Championship kicks off on March 6 and teams and personnel are expected to start arriving as early as this weekeend.

"Our rescue and fire units evacuated the terminal when several people exhibited similar symptoms," said a spokesman for Airservices Australia. "What is causing it is simply not known."

Ambulance officials said 53 people fell ill at the terminal and 45 were taken to a hospital decontamination unit. Thirty-five people have since been released from hospital.

Paramedics dressed in head-to-toe protective clothing treated people in a field hospital outside the terminal. Most of the sick were airport workers.

Airport officials initially said they believed the cause of the illnesses could be a chemical leak, but fire brigades searched the terminal and found no source for the illnesses.

"We have not found anything. We checked all areas - the baggage, food preparation, passenger and baggage handling where you would think a chemical might be found," said a fire official.

All departing Virgin Blue flights were cancelled, while arriving flights were offloaded on the tarmac and passengers bussed to another terminal. The nearby Qantas domestic terminal and the international terminal were both operating normally.

Authorities reopened the Virgin Blue terminal in the early evening, allowing the budget carrier to resume flights into and out of Australia's second-biggest city.

"We're trying to move as many people as we can tonight," Virgin Blue spokeswoman Amanda Bolger said.

The cause of the leak, however, remained a mystery.

"The source has not been located or identified," the Australian Associated Press quoted a fire brigade spokesman as saying. "All (chemical detection) readings are showing zero," the spokesman said.

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