A Stafford County sheriff's deputy is recovering after he was accidentally exposed to a dangerous opioid -- and the exposure also affected a nurse who treated the officer.
Detectives say David Chambers and Samantha Stoudt were found with illegal drugs inside a van at the Goddard School parking lot on HighPointe Boulevard in Stafford, Virginia, Thursday morning.
While collecting evidence inside the van, Deputy A.C. Wolford apparently handled fentanyl, an opioid so powerful that just touching it can result in an overdose.
One of the suspects had to be treated at the hospital. But as Wolford followed her into the Stafford Hospital emergency room, a nurse spotted trouble. Wolford began to stagger and his speech slurred.
The hospital staff gave Wolford the antidote naloxone to reverse the effects, and he is expected to recover.
Then, as Wolford was being treated, a nurse became ill, too.
"For a number of hours we had rooms we had to close down because we really didn't know what the room contamination was," said Cindy Hearrell, nurse manager at the hospital.
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At the crime scene, a newly trained sheriff's department team jumped into action to contain the danger of what they now suspected was fentanyl.
Wearing protective suits and air tanks, they inspected the deputy's car -- which had been marked as a biohazard -- for evidence of the dangerous drug. Afterward, the team and its equipment had to be decontaminated.
The hospital is changing procedures as well: If a heroin or fentanyl overdose victim comes in, now doctors and nurses will wear protective gear.
The incident is a wake-up call for first responders who always feared the dangerous opiate could hurt one of their own.
"I always used to say, it's not if, it's when -- and when became now," said Master Detective Todd Nosal of the Stafford County Sheriff's office.