WILLIAMSON – It is not a secret that the heroin epidemic is horrific in the region. But what makes it even worse is that used needles are being found in public places.
In the last couple of years, used syringes have been found on downtown sidewalks and beside of businesses. Recently a couple were found on the walking track at the West Williamson floodwall.
Others have been found along roadsides that were apparently tossed out of car windows.
Over the weekend one mother shared on Facebook that her young child had found one near their home and stuck himself with the needle.
Williamson Police Chief Barry Blair had this statement about the needles.
“Even though dirty syringes have been located around town, I haven’t seen it as a major problem. Occasionally, someone from the public will bring in a used syringe to my office or we find them around town on the ground. The most common we find is the diabetic needles which are used to shoot up with various types of drugs.”
“Now, that’s not to say it isn’t a problem in the sense that children playing could be pricked and possibly contract a disease such as Hepatitis or, depending on how recently it was used, get injected with drugs,” Blair added. “This is the real concern I have about them being thrown around town in various locations, because the safety of our children. I would ask the public to be aware and observant to this problem and, if someone finds a needle, contact the Williamson Police Department or bring it to the police department for proper disposal. If the public has any questions, please have them contact the Williamson Police Department at 304-235-2570 about this important issue.”
Used needles could be contaminated with HIV or Hepatitis C. This poses a real threat to children or anyone who may accidentally get stuck with a used syringe that has been passed around by intravenous drug users.
Anthony Blankenship is the new Administrator for the Mingo County Health Department . He had this statement, “If anyone in Mingo County finds a syringe/needle in a public place they should not touch or handle it, but call their law enforcement for proper disposal. The risk of the general public to handle a contaminated syringe is too great for an untrained person to handle. Only proper authorities should handle such hazard materials.”
“Substance use, abuse, and dependence has been closely associated with HIV infection since the beginning of the epidemic,” stated Evelyn Robinette, RN, who is the Infection Control Coordinator for Tug Valley ARH Regional Hospital. “Injection drug use (IDU) is a direct route of transmission for diseases.”
“Substance use and addiction are public health concerns for many reasons. In addition to increasing the risk of HIV transmission, substance use can affect people’s overall health and make them more susceptible to HIV infection,” Robinette added. “In those already infected with HIV, substance use can hasten disease progression and negatively affect adherence to treatment.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
When a person experiences a needle stick injury, there may be anxiety and distress, this is a natural response when thoughts of potential infection with blood borne viruses (BBVs) such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B and C occur. The risk associated with transmission of BBVs through needle stick injuries in community settings is very low.
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)