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More first responders to get needle-resistant gloves

December 28, 2017 GMT

HUNTINGTON - The reality of widespread intravenous drug use has created a nightmare for Cabell County’s first responders, who could come across an unexpected syringe in any pocket or bag, console or glove box they might be called to rifle through.

In a second, an errant slip of the hand and a mere pinprick could lead to weeks of treatment, if not lifelong consequences.

But local emergency crews will soon head out to overdose calls outfitted with pairs of needle-resistant gloves, courtesy of Cabell Huntington Hospital. The hospital donated $11,856 on Wednesday to furnish the heavy-duty gloves for Cabell County Emergency Medical Technicians, the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office and the Huntington Police Department.

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“This is a threat that’s pretty omnipresent now and that we have to pay attention to,” Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial said. “So to have the equipment and the training allows us to search someone correctly and without getting stuck.”

For Huntington police, the donation allows for one pair for each of up to 103 officers - its authorized maximum strength - meaning each current officer will have his own pair. No one at HPD has yet been accidentally pricked in the field, Dial said, and the donation will help keep it that way.

“This isn’t something that we had budgeted to purchase, but this (donation) makes it possible,” he added.

Exposure to syringes and the potential biohazards inside is overarching cause for concern to anyone in the medical field, including first responders, said Kevin Fowler, CEO of Cabell Huntington Hospital. First responders are faced with confronting it without ever knowing when or where a needle might show itself.

“When they’re out in the field, they don’t have that kind of control or knowledge what the other person has on them, so they’re going to be at higher risk,” said Fowler, who first heard of the need for needle-resistant gloves after meeting with Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce President Bill Bissett. “In that environment, they need every tool possible to be safe while they’re out there providing care.”

Although most resemble mechanic’s gloves, the needle-resistant gloves vary in design based on the particular needs of the job. A police officer’s gloves, Dial explained, require more dexterity in the fingers to be able to fire a weapon if needed.

Gloves already in use by the Huntington Fire Department feature hardened fingertips - similar in concept to steel-toed boots - and may be reinforced by first slipping on a pair of latex gloves to keep any foreign fluids from reaching the skin.

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“This is just an extra step to protect your hands,” said Huntington Fire Lt. Robert Culp as he strapped on a pair Wednesday morning at Station Four in the West End. “It definitely gives you a little bit of peace of mind.”

Firefighters regularly respond to overdoses with Cabell County EMS and Huntington Police - whichever arrives first - each an occasion for Culp and other firefighters to strap on their gloves. At least one Huntington firefighter has been stuck by a syringe on the job, he added, though he has since returned for duty.

“When you go on an overdose call, there’s usually a needle somewhere,” he said.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

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