The Meriden police officer exposed to an illegal substance while responding to a call has been treated and released from the hospital, according to the chief’s office.
But what happened Thursday is a reminder of the dangers first responders face if they encounter these potentially deadly drugs.
“This officer, from all we can understand, merely picked up a packet of drugs,” Sgt. Chris Fry of Meriden Police told NBC Connecticut Thursday. “That’s all it took to send him into a state of near death.”
The response of Hunter’s Ambulance saved the life of the officer exposed to the substance while treating a woman who apparently overdosed, Fry said.
Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New England Brian Boyle told NBC Connecticut by phone that a state lab is testing the substance to confirm if it contained the synthetic opioid, fentanyl.
“Throughout the Northeast just because heroin is a drug of choice here and with the emergence of the fentanyl there have been incidents in some departments that have come across on raids and arrest situations that officers have been lightheaded or have become sick in exposure,” Boyle said.
The DEA sends out videos to police departments with guidelines how to process an overdose scene, Boyle said.
“It could be in the air,” Boyle added, “it could be just on the ground, it could be on the person’s body that you’re touching if you’re trying to revive the person, you could easily contact it with your skin.”
Wearing gloves is a must, Boyle added.
In Connecticut, more than 30 local police departments, including Meriden, have an officer assigned to the DEA Task Forces in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport.
Boyle issued a warning for police and the public.
“Any citizen could be walking by on the street and see someone overdose or any family members, you need to be cautious,” he said, “you don’t know what you’re putting in your system, it’s kind of like a game of Russian roulette you’re playing with your body.”
The woman the Meriden police officer was treating is expected to make a full recovery.
Boyle said as far as he knows no law enforcement officer in the Northeast has died from exposure to an opioid like heroin or fentanyl.