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'Scary situation': Hillsborough deputy taken to hospital after possible fentanyl exposure, sheriff says

It is unclear whether the deputy underwent a toxicology test. Medical experts say a person cannot overdose from a brief exposure.

TAMPA, Fla. — A Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy was sent to the hospital on Friday evening after the agency says he was exposed to a substance that tested positive for fentanyl.

Deputy Ismael Contreras, 25, was doing a routine search around 6:30 p.m. at the Falkenburg Road Jail "when he was exposed to a powdery substance" found in an inmate's bunk area, the sheriff's office said in a news release. 

Contreras then quickly sealed the powder in a rubber glove to minimize his exposure to the substance, authorities said, adding that he felt ill and nearly passed out after alerting others.

Two doses of Narcan were given to Contreras. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment and was discharged at about 10:30 p.m. after he recovered from the incident, law enforcement said. 

Despite the sheriff's claims, several medical organizations, including a toxicologist who previously spoke with VERIFY, have said a person cannot touch fentanyl and overdose. A person who is briefly exposed to fentanyl would not overdose, either.

“Science is very clear that you cannot overdose by touching fentanyl,” said Leo Beletsky, associate professor at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine to VERIFY. “It’s technically impossible to touch fentanyl powder and feel any effects of it, let alone overdose.”

The agency says the substance tested positive for the drug. It's not clear whether the deputy was tested or if a toxicology test was performed following the incident. Officials added that the inmates involved were moved to confinement. 

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement that "this scary situation is one that no deputy should ever have to endure.

"Our team remains committed to eliminating illegal drugs in our detention facilities. HCSO commends Deputy Contreras' dedication to his craft and ambition to return to work quickly after such a terrifying incident."

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