Used syringes being found throughout Cherokee
By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Rick Strohm holds up a used pop bottle containing two used needle syringes he found alongside a road in Cherokee. This is one of numerous occurrences of this throughout the community.
“On a weekly basis, I find numerous needles on Old No. 4 Road,” Strohm told the One Feather. “It’s disgusting. I don’t even allow my kids to play in the front yard in fear of them, or my dog, stepping on a dirty drug needle. Our community needs help.”
Information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) speaks to the dangers of encountering such syringes. “Used needles and other sharps (medical devices with sharp points or edges) are dangerous to people and pets if not disposed of safely because they can injure people and spread infections that cause serious health conditions. The most common infections are: Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (Hep C or HCV), and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).”
A North Carolina Public Health and Human Services report on Hep C states that reported cases have tripled in the state from 2010-14. The agency also reports that over 110,000 North Carolinians are infected with the virus and 75 percent of the infected population is unaware that they’re infected.
During an EBCI Health Board meeting in July, Casey Cooper, Cherokee Indian Hospital CEO, reported the most recent number at that time for people in the CIHA system who are infected with Hep C was 539. Those are the most current numbers available from the hospital.
Vice Chief Richard G. Sneed told the One Feather the growing incidence of this is a concern of his, “We do need a protocol and training for both the citizenry and emergency service workers. More importantly, the fact that used syringes are being discarded in public places, even places frequented by children such as playgrounds, demonstrates the need to take a serious look at a needle exchange program.”
Now, what do you do if you come across a used syringe on the street?
“Those that find them should never touch the needle portion,” said Sally Penick, Cherokee Indian Hospital infection control manager. “It is wise to pick them up on the syringe end and dispose of them in a thick plastic container as soon as possible.”
She added, “I have been pushing for retractable needles. The needle retracts into the syringe after the medication is injected. I think if they were dispensed to those with diabetes, it could at least prevent their needles from being reused.”
Penick said she has visited several community groups educating about the proper way to dispose of sharps per FDA standards. Several things the FDA recommends not doing with sharps include:
- Don’t throw needles and other sharps into the trash.
- Don’t flush needles and other sharps down the toilet.
- Don’t put needles and other sharps in your recycling bin.
- Don’t try to remove, bend, break, or recap needles used by another person.
- Don’t attempt to remove the needle without a needle clipper device…
Cherokee Indian Police Department officials related that the department does not pick up nor do they collect found sharps and syringes. If you need more information on proper disposal, visit www.fda.gov/safesharpdisposal.