United States

6 Treated After Being Exposed to White Powder at NH Hospital

A New Hampshire hospital says four emergency department workers and two police officers have been treated after they were exposed to an unidentified white powder while attending to a patient.

Officials at Elliot Hospital in Manchester said the incident happened Thursday morning when a patient who was brought to the hospital took out a bag of white powder and ripped it open with his mouth, causing the powder go to airborne.

Manchester police said the man, Theodore Macenas, 26, of Manchester, was arrested at 3:45 a.m. Thursday after his girlfriend said he hit her in the parking lot of a McDonald's on South Willow Street.

Police said they located 12 Diazepam pills in his pockets and he appeared to be under the influence of drugs during the booking process. He requested medical attention and was taken to the hospital a short time later.

While at the hospital awaiting treatment, Macenas asked to use the bathroom around 9:30 a.m. The police officer assigned to monitor him realized that Macenas had drugs concealed inside his rectum and struggled with him as he tried to swallow the unknown powdery substance.

"A struggle ensued, the bag ripped, and an unknown powdery substance spilled all over the floor," Manchester Police Lt. Brian O'Keefe said.

Although the room was immediately taped off and quarantined, officials said two police officers, a security guard, a doctor, a nurse and a nursing student complained of headaches, nauseau, feeling foggy and having a rapid heartbeat within 30 minutes of the powder going airborne.

The hospital said the six people treated at the scene are OK.

The emergency room was not closed as a result, nor was the building evacuated. Manchester fire personnel responded to decontaminate the affected areas.

Agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took a sample of the white powder substance. Manchester police said preliminary tests show the substance was methamphetamine.

"The symptoms don't fit," District Fire Chief Jim Michael said about the powder not being an opioid. "The police officer wrestling with him would've overdosed, no question."

Accidental overdoses by law enforcement and first responders have have happened in different cities across the country, but Manchester officials say they're undeterred.

"Regardless of what the risks may be, they still continue to do this job without complaint," O'Keefe said.

Macenas is facing assault and multiple drug charges as a result of the incident.

No bail or court information was released, and it wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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