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Evaluation of occupational exposures to illicit drugs during a law enforcement and emergency medical services response
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  • Description:
    "In March 2018, a county Sheriff's Office and Fire and Rescue Department requested a health hazard evaluation (HHE) concerning unintentional potential exposure to illicit drugs during a joint law enforcement and fire and rescue response to a drug overdose at a private residence. Nine responders developed adverse health effects during the incident. We interviewed six fire fighter-EMS providers and three deputy sheriffs who underwent medical evaluation after the response. We spoke with hospital emergency department (ED) staff, members of the Fire and Rescue Department command staff, and a member of the county emergency communications center. We reviewed narratives about the incident from the Sheriff's Office and the Fire and Rescue Department, and medical records from the ED related to the incident for the nine responders. We found that deputy sheriffs and fire fighter-EMS providers developed health effects shortly after treating or transporting a victim with suspected opioid overdose. Three deputy sheriffs and six fire fighter-EMS providers were evaluated in the ED after going through decontamination procedures. Eight of nine responders reported a range of symptoms with the most common being weakness, confusion, palpitations, nausea, and lightheadedness. These symptoms interfered with their ability to carry out important work tasks. None of the responders received naloxone. The etiology of symptoms and potential source(s) of exposure for the responders could not be definitively identified. The responders all wore long-sleeved uniforms, wore gloves during parts of the response, and none wore respirators. We recommended following guidance available from NIOSH and other public health agencies, developing new or modifying existing policies and procedures for emergency response work involving illicit drugs, providing training on how to prevent occupational exposure to illicit drugs, working with 911 dispatch coordinators to identify possible improvements in information gathering and communication before arriving at scenes where there might be illicit drugs, and encouraging officers to report possible exposures to and health effects resulting from exposure to illicit drugs to their supervisors." - NIOSHTIC-2 NIOSHTIC no. 20053772
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