Rebekah Fowler, resident of Timber Ridge Apartments in Sistersville, is concerned for her six-year-old daughter's well being following an incident on Friday July 26. A fellow apartment resident showed her a syringe and informed her that her (Fowler's) daughter had been poked by the needle while playing outside.
According to Fowler, her daughter must now undergo testing every three to six months for approximately a year, or dates and times as determined by doctors, in order to check for diseases. Potential diseases transmitted by dirty needles include but are not limited to HIV and different forms of Hepatitis.
"My daughter was coming up the steps, and the neighbor brought a syringe and said she got poked by it. She (my daughter) said she had picked it up in between the breezeways. Immediately my fiance helped her clean her thumb out, and I called 911.
A syringe found on the wooded hillside behind Timber Ridge Apartments.
"(Sistersville Police) Chief (Ben) Placer showed up within five minutes. He came with a big plastic tube, and I put the syringe in it. From there I was getting ready to take my daughter to the hospital, and Chief Placer went over to the area where the needle was found."
Taking safety precautions, the syringe in question was treated by the Sistersville Police Department (SPD) as presumably used.
"The needle was poking out the side of the cap," said Sistersville Police Chief Ben Placer. "The main concern for the child was obviously the possibility of contracting some type of disease from a dirty needle. It's a shame what happened to that little girl. I'm hoping nothing comes of the testing."
Brandon Chadock, director of operations at Sistersville General Hospital, cited the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources for advice on the proper disposal of household syringes (sharps).
-To properly manage your sharps: You should place needles, syringes, lancets, and other sharp objects in a hard plastic or metal container with a screw on or tightly fitting lid.
-Examples of suitable containers for sharps disposal: A coffee can-the plastic lid must be securely fastened with heavy-duty packing tape, a liquid laundry detergent container, or a plastic pop bottle.
-Collecting your sharps: Use the container to store all sharps until it is filled halfway, then follow the directions below. Be sure to store your collection container away from children and animals.
-Packaging your sharps container for disposal: Sharps must be disinfected prior to being placed into the garbage. Mix: 1 Tablespoon of bleach and 1 pint of water (16 oz., 2 cups). Pour the mixture into container and seal.
-Label the container before disposing: Using a permanent marker, write the following on the container: TREATED SHARPS, NON RECYCLABLE.
-Disposing your treated and labeled container: Place the container in a garbage bag and tape or tie the open end. Place this garbage bag into your regular garbage.
Questions can be directed to: Infectious Medical Waste Program, Office of Environmental Health Services, 1 Davis Square, Suite 200, Charleston, WV 25301-1798; phone, 304-558-6783 or 304-558-6725; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chief Placer said that a person reportedly seen with a syringe prior to the incident was very cooperative and, feeling confident that their DNA would not match that on the syringe, provided a cheek swab. The chief emphasized that determining who might have used the needle is primarily about helping the young girl in the event that she contracted a disease. As of this writing, they have not received word on the results of the DNA test.
Fowler said that while her daughter's blood work, following the incident, revealed no contractions of disease, it did reveal a failure in the Hepatitis vaccination she had previously received. As for the young girl's health, Fowler said she currently appears to be fine.
"There's no law against having a syringe or any type of paraphernalia," said Chief Placer, confirming that more needles were found following the incident.
When it comes to the littering of needles, he compared it to any other littering case in that the crime must be seen in order to charge someone for it. He did explain, however, that if any residue of a controlled substance is found in a syringe that a person is holding, that person can be charged with possession. At this time, they are not sure what substance the syringe in question was carrying.
"I feel like it's important for parents to talk with their kids about the dangers of picking up syringes or items they find," he said. As for Timber Ridge Apartments, he stated, "We've been trying to be more aggressive with patrols in the area."
He also urged people to call the police when potentially unlawful issues persist.
"We may not know about a particular problem unless someone calls," he said.
Other residents of Timber Ridge Apartments, income-based apartments located on 230 Wood Street in Sistersville, expressed their concerns. While many of them agreed that drugs were likely being abused by inhabitants of the complex, some of them speculated that heroin is not the primary substance being injected via syringe.
They instead indicated the drug Subutex, an opioid which is intended to treat other opioid addictions and should not be injected, is more prevalent.
"These kids' safety is more important to me than anything else," said resident Ambar Fletcher. According to her, she watched as officers searched and removed syringes from the hillside brush pile behind her apartment. She also stated that she has seen a person, who she did not name, dispose of items over the hill.
Fowler stated she has called the Bureau for Public Health, the Department of Human Health and Resources, the Attorney General's Office, and Child Protective Services. While gathering from these sources that the cleaning of litter falls under the responsibility of apartment management, she understands their limitations in the matter.