City Struggles to Respond to 27 Overdoses in Just 5 Hours

'It was basically like a mass casualty event'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2016 6:26 PM CDT
West Virginia City Has 27 Overdoses in 5 Hours
Syringes from heroin users.   (Amanda Morris/The Republican-American via AP)

Twenty-seven people overdosed in less than five hours Monday in one West Virginia city, USA Today reports. "It was basically like a mass casualty event," Cabell County EMS director Gordon Merry tells CNN. The first reported overdose in Huntington came in around 3:30pm, and ambulances and other emergency resources were quickly stretched to their limit. "It really taxed the system," Merry tells USA Today. Shockingly, only one of the 27 died, though it took three doses of noloxone to revive one person. Huntington—a city of 50,000—typically sees 18 to 20 overdoses per week. Police chief Joe Ciccarelli calls Monday's rash of overdoses "remarkable."

Police believe the overdoses were due to a batch of heroin laced with something else, WSAZ reports. "When something like this hits the streets, it draws like flies to sugar," Ciccarelli says. Most of the overdoses occurred within a mile of each other, with seven happening in one location. While police suspect the heroin was laced with fentanyl, they won't be sure for months. It will take about 10 weeks to get toxicology reports back. According to the CDC, West Virginia had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the US in 2014. (Read more overdose stories.)

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