A 1-year-old Pennsylvania girl who died in August was exposed to the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil, the medical examiner announced Wednesday.
Au’Driana Cohen would have turned 2 this week.
An autopsy revealed that she died of an overdose of the powerful opioid that is sometimes mixed into heroin and other illegal drugs, the Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh reports.
The overdose was ruled accidental. Au’Driana was found unresponsive on Aug. 6 at a home in McKees Rocks.
A woman who identified herself as the baby’s mother recently left a comment on a local TV station’s Facebook page saying her daughter was with a babysitter when she died.
“First of all I am her mother and not a junkie and never put my child in danger she was in care of a baby sitter so don’t speak on things you don’t know!!!!!!” she wrote.
People left a long list of condolences for the mother.
On Thursday at a White House event, President Donald Trump declared a nationwide health emergency to combat the country’s growing opioid crisis.
“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” he said. “Nobody has seen anything like what is going on now.”
Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid, like fentanyl, that is testing police, laboratories and medical examiners across the country. It reportedly began showing up in the St. Louis area over the summer.
Marketed as a tranquilizer for large animals — a small dose can put an elephant to sleep — it is said to be 50 times more potent than heroin, 100 times stronger than fentanyl and 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
It is so powerful even a trace amount can be fatal. It’s made its way into the illegal drug market, where it can be cut into heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine to make them more potent.
Carfentanil is so powerful that police and lab workers have been urged not to handle it without having a known antidote, naloxone, nearby.
Zoo veterinarians typically wear face shields, gloves and other protective gear – “just a little bit short of a hazmat suit” – when preparing the medicine to sedate animals because even one drop splattered into a person’s eye or nose could be fatal, Rob Hilsenroth, executive director of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, told The Associated Press.
In Minnesota, prosecutors are pursuing the first federal case involving distribution of carfentanil, which killed at least a dozen people in the Twin Cities area earlier this year, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
“It’s gotten to the point where we just feel like we’ve been hit with a tidal wave of cases,” Andrew Baker , chief Hennepin County medical examiner, told the Star Tribune.
Allegheny County police continue to investigate how Au’Driana came in contact with the opioid. They have not released any more details of her death, and no charges have been filed.