HUNTINGTON, WV (REPORT BY: WCHS/WVAH)- Huntington’s parks have been designed to be a place of carefree joy for kids and their guardians like Ashlyn McGlown and her grandson.
Word that a park worker had been stuck by needle and then diagnosed with Hepatitis C shattered that perception for many, but McGlown had already been taking precautions.
She’s been protecting her grandson on regular park visits with close inspections before playing, no open toed shoes, and instructions on what to look out for.
“Anything that looks like, we call it a balloon, anything that could be a condom, anything that looks like a band-aid or bandage, anything that looks like a needle,” she said.
McGlown added that she told her son not to touch anything like it, and she wasn’t alone.
“I try to keep her updated about not playing in the creek back there,” Erin Weston said with her Granddaughter Bella Erwin beside her, “just watch out for needles and don’t touch them.”
Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Brady said needles have been found at all 14 Huntington parks, and the seasonal employee diagnosed with Hepatitis C was stuck at Harris Riverfront Park while changing the trash.
“It’s terrible,” Weston said, “everywhere you go you have to be cautious.”’
Brady said, for privacy reasons, the Hep. C diagnosis can’t be directly linked to the needle stick.
The Centers for Disease Control said transmissions are incredibly rare even when someone is stuck by an infected needle.
If someone is stuck by an infected needle, the chance of contracting Hepatitis C is roughly one tenth of one percent, or 1/1000.
Even with the low odds, Weston said she’s praying her granddaughter never has to face them.
“My hope is in Jesus Christ,” she said, “he’s going to have to help us.”
Brady said he’s also pushing lawmakers to put stricter punishments on people who’ve been arrested while in the possession of drugs in public places like parks in the wake of a double overdose car crash at Ritter Park in late July.
His online Change.org petition to have parks and other gathering places protected the same way schools are has gained more than 1000 signatures in two weeks.
Huntington Police pushed for stricter penalties after the crash, after combing through West Virginia code and finding they could only charge the two people involved with misdemeanors.