CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Federal agencies unveiled Thursday its recommendations for first responders regarding protection from exposure to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl.

The agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, issued steps for law enforcement take to protect themselves from exposure as well as what to do if exposure occurs.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said this is an important step in the fight against opioids.

“A lot of people don’t realize that fentanyl has become a serious killer,” he said. “Last year, more than 29,000 of the 72,000 folks who died of overdose died as a result of synthetic opioid, primarily fentanyl. Here in West Virginia, 1,100 people died of an overdose last year, almost 600 of them were fentanyl-related.”

Fentanyl comes in many forms, including powder and tablets, and can be blended with other drugs.

The agencies also published a video regarding the dangers of fentanyl exposure. The almost seven-minute film informs first responders to wash off fentanyl when first exposed, and wearing hand, eye and mouth protection adds additional layers of protection.

A supervisor should also be alerted after exposure.

“It’s very important for law enforcement to use every safeguard possible and don’t let their guard down for one minute,” Stuart said. “Basic exposure to fentanyl can be dealt with through Naloxone or Narcan, and through washing your hands or washing it off as quickly as possible.”

The video also notes the symptoms of fentanyl use and overdose.

The video will be made available to first responders across the United States and is posted on YouTube and the website of the U.S. Attorney Office of the southern district of West Virginia.

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