Police Department Facebook Post Falsely Links Heroin To Zika

By McCarton Ackerman 09/12/16

Health professionals have expressed concern that the inaccurate Facebook post could lead to confusion about heroin and the Zika virus being related.

Police Department Facebook Post Falsely Links Heroin To Zika

A local Kentucky police department is under fire for knowingly distributing false information about heroin containing the Zika virus.

Local news outlet WSAZ reported that the Ashland Police Department posted two Facebook statuses last Wednesday claiming heroin in the area was contaminated with the Zika virus. Both posts have since been deleted.

The original post read: "If you have recently purchased Heroin in Kentucky, West Virginia or Ohio, it may be contaminated with the Zika Virus. Please contact your local Police or Sheriff’s department so they can conduct a 'free' screening test on your Heroin to make sure it is not contaminated." 

They later issued a follow-up post, urging heroin users to get help. “We want to clarify that in no way was this to be defined as being humorous,” they wrote. “This has been a tactic throughout the country in attempts to get those addicted and/or families to deter use. The Ashland Police Department is completely committed to maintaining the best quality of life in our community. The influences of dangerous narcotics are interfering.”

Health professionals expressed concern over the inaccurate Facebook post and said it could lead to confusion about heroin and the Zika virus being related.

"I think we all need to work together to make sure that the correct information is getting out to the public so that there's not a panic," Kristy Bolen of the Ashland-Boyd County Health Department told WSAZ.

Ashland Police Chief Todd Kelley said the department had the right intention, but the wrong execution. Although he was adamant that the department didn’t regret making the Facebook post, he acknowledged that the confusion surrounding it distracted everyone from the authorities' intended message.

But at least one member of the Ashland community was comfortable with the by-any-means-necessary approach to stamping out drug use. Michael White, a local resident who has struggled with heroin use, told WSAZ that people in the community “should have no problem with whatever tactics the police want to use to get the drugs off the street." 

Also last week, police in Bath, Michigan, also made a similarly inaccurate Facebook post linking meth being sold in the community to the Zika virus.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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