KS City, KS – By Joe Lambe, The Kansas City Star

On the season’s first chilly night, firefighters early Thursday took two adults and two toddlers to a hospital for suspected mild carbon monoxide poisoning.

An unhealthy level of the poisonous gas was found in the family’s Kansas City home, a firefighter spokesman said, indicating a possible problem with the furnace.

Most people recover quickly after getting fresh air or oxygen, said physician Gary Wasserman of Children’s Mercy Hospital, where the children were treated. The hospital handles many such cases a year, he said, but fatalities are rare.

Carbon monoxide poisoning begins with flulike symptoms and can proceed to coma and death.

“It’s said to be the leading poison killer in the United States,” Wasserman said, with 17,115 cases reported in 2004 that resulted in 74 known deaths.

Joe Vitale, Kansas City firefighter spokesman, said, “With the changing of the season, it’s a good idea to have your furnace cleaned and inspected and your chimney flues checked.”

Carbon monoxide detectors also can save lives, he said.