Children in heroin-plagued Ballymena have been “scratched” by discarded hypodermic needles – prompting police to issue an alert as fears mounted about the potential spread of deadly diseases like Aids.
The PSNI in the Antrim town – which per-head-of-population has one of Northern Ireland’s worst drug problems – called on parents to advise their children not to touch such needles.
Police say they have been made aware of incidents in which children have picked up and been scratched by hypodermic needles.
Said a spokesman: “We are asking parents to impress on their children the importance of never touching discarded needles.
“Our advice to anyone finding needles is do not touch them, you never know what they might contain.
“Instead, tell police straight away and we will arrange to have the needles picked up and disposed of.”
Police can be contacted in Ballymena on 2565 3355.
It was hoped the scheme would help prevent needles being dumped on the streets over fears that Aids and Hepatitis could be spread to people being pricked by contaminated needles.
Former Ballymena mayor Alderman Joe McKernan (Ulster Unionist) said he was shocked to hear that children had their skin scratched by needles.
“If a child’s skin is pierced by a needle in these circumstances it must be a nightmare for parents,” he said.
“As the police say, who knows what these things could contain, it’s like Russian roulette.
“You would have to fear the worst until proven otherwise and it could be a long, worrying wait if tests are sought.”