A Panera Bread in Massachusetts was shut down Friday after a possible carbon monoxide leak, according to Bloomberg. This happened after about 18 people got sick. They were worried about it being foodborne illness, but it appears that it may have been a carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO poisoning at Panera Bread

It is important to install working carbon monoxide detectors in both homes and businesses. (Flickr / Creative Commons / HeatherMG)

The store is located in the town of Seekonk. The franchisee is working with the health department to ensure its safety, Panera said in a statement. The restaurant will remain closed until they are absolutely certain it is safe.

They noticed something was wrong when employees and guests started getting sick. Their illness was consistent with that of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, and nausea. More serious cases involve loss of consciousness, which can result in brain damage. The brain is deprived of oxygen and fails to exhaust toxic chemicals from the brain. Carbon monoxide has more affinity to hemoglobin, a protein molecule in red blood cells, than oxygen. This is what results in poisoning.

The reason the restaurant would be worried about foodborne illness is that it would reflect poorly on them and stocks would go down. That is exactly what happened, too. Stocks went down 1.8 percent when the news of sick customers first came about. The stock began to go back to normal after news that it was carbon monoxide poisoning rather than foodborne illness surfaced. Today, at 1:51 p.m., the stocks were were at $221.56, up 1.10 percent.

The restaurant said that 13 people were treated by emergency personnel on the scene, and five were taken to the hospital as a precaution. Hyperbaric oxygen is the best type of treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. Risks include hyperoxic seizures and barotrauma. The benefits include increasing oxygen in the blood, accelerated elimination of CO in the blood, prevention of degrading lipids in the brain, and preservation of ATP levels in tissue exposed to CO.

This situation mirrors a carbon monoxide poisoning in March of this year in the Panera Bread in Huntington Station, New York. A piece of machinery that emits exhaust caused the leak. Police evacuated ten people from the restaurant, while seven were treated on the scene and taken to the hospital for evaluation.

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