California

Entire police headquarters in California city evacuated over drug scare, cops say

Can you really overdose from inhaling fentanyl?

Medical experts say you have to ingest fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, to overdose. You cannot overdose just by touching fentanyl, and it's possible, but highly unlikely to overdose from fentanyl by simply inhaling it.
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Medical experts say you have to ingest fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, to overdose. You cannot overdose just by touching fentanyl, and it's possible, but highly unlikely to overdose from fentanyl by simply inhaling it.

Police in Sunnyvale, California, evacuated their headquarters late Wednesday after a fentanyl scare hospitalized multiple officers, the department said.

One patrol officer had a “medical emergency” at Department of Public Safety headquarters while processing and being exposed to what police were told was the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, police said in a news release on Thursday. Police said his symptoms included immediately feeling “severe respiratory distress,” the San Jose Mercury News reports.

“The reaction was pretty quick,” Sunnyvale police spokesman Jim Choi said, according to the Mercury News.

Officers treated the ailing cop at the scene, and then he was hospitalized, according to police. The officer is now in stable condition.

Six other officers also had to be hospitalized and evaluated for possible fentanyl exposure as a precaution, police said. All of them have now been released. Police said they lifted the evacuation around 7 a.m. on Wednesday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has warned local first responders — including police, paramedics and firefighters — to take precautions in case they get exposed to fentanyl, which is 30 to 50 times more potent than a conventional drug such as heroin, according to the federal agency. Those warnings come amid reports across the United States of paramedics and other first responders suffering overdose-like symptoms at drug-related crime scenes or while taking overdosing drug-users to the hospital.

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The suspected fentanyl in Sunnyvale was brought to headquarters after police responded to a See’s Candy on reports that a suspicious person was peeing in public, and then arrested the suspect on two outstanding warrants in San Luis Obispo County, police said. Police did not release the man’s name.

The man also had a baggie on him, which police suspected was filled with narcotics — and which the man told responding officers had fentanyl inside, according to police. Police said they have yet to confirm the substance was actually fentanyl, and won’t know until results come back from Santa Clara County’s crime lab.

“Unfortunately, that may take some time,” Choi said, according to Patch.

After evacuating the headquarters, a hazmat team went in to grab the suspected fentanyl and “decontaminated the affected areas,” police said.

“The exposure was contained to DPS Headquarters and there is no threat to the community,” police wrote in the news release. “Police, fire and EMS services were not affected during this incident.”

Choi said the building was still under a “Level A” quarantine on Thursday morning while crews processed police headquarters for hazardous materials, KTVU reports.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.

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