A five-year-old Bognor Regis boy may have caught hepatitis B from a drug addict’s needle.
Mason Barrett and his mother, Karla Richings, pictured, inset, face an anxious wait until next January to find out if he will develop the potentially-serious liver condition.
He was pricked by one of the two needles found by a school friend on an outing to Hotham Park.
Karla said: “I am devastated by this. This is a horrible thing to have to go through as a parent. It is just a case of waiting.
“I am worried, but I can’t worry too much or else it will send me crazy in the next couple of months.
“Mason is not too concerned, though. He is too young to understand the consequences of what has happened.”
The drama began last Thursday when Mason went on a trip to the park with his schoolfriends from South Bersted C of E Primary School.
He was celebrating his fifth birthday, but the happy mood of the occasion soon turned to concern.
One of the children, aged four, found the needles in the undergrowth near the children’s play area. Mason said he had been stung by a needle when the seriousness of the find was realised by a teacher.
She immediately took the children back to the school. Karla intercepted Mason when he passed their Highfield Road home on the way. She took him to Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital. Staff cleaned the wound but referred Mason to St Richard’s Hospital for further treatment.
Medics there told her it was unlikely Mason had contracted HIV from the needle because the rate of infection among intravenous drug users in Bognor was low.
But it would need a series of blood tests to determine if Mason had caught hepatitis B. It will be eight months before the result is known. Mother-of-four Karla, 27, said: “The needles that were found were covered in blood and really long.
“I can’t take any of my children to Hotham Park after this.
“Signs should be put up in the park warning drug addicts any needles that are left will be tested for DNA and they will be traced through that.
She said she fully supported the school and the actions of the teacher concerned.
An Arun District Council spokeswoman said: “Hotham Park has two on-site gardeners and the area is also litter-picked every single day as well as the overall cleaning and maintenance of the park through our contractors.
“Anyone who sees a syringe in a public place should not touch it but report it to us immediately on 01903 737951. We will arrange for it to be safely collected and disposed of as a matter of urgency.”
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver which can cause significant damage.