updated 11/29/2011 8:48:54 AM ET 2011-11-29T13:48:54

Ailments that temporarily shut down a hospital's emergency room may have been caused by pepper spray.

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The St. Joseph Hospital London closed its ER briefly Sunday after a family from Jackson County came in complaining of headaches, shortness of breath, throat irritation and a burning sensation — and then emergency workers came down with the same symptoms.

The family told hospital workers they thought their symptoms started after coming into contact with a stray dog.

The Jackson County emergency management director told WKYT-TV that initial tests on the animal show the chemical may have been pepper spray

Laurel County Sheriff's officials said a family of five from McKee came to St. Joseph Hospital London Sunday evening, complaining of similar symptoms. While a doctor and three other emergency room workers treated the family, the medical personnel experienced the symptoms, which included headache, shortness of breath, throat irritation and a burning sensation.

All nine people were decontaminated and have improved. The emergency room reopened.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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