Crime

Meth found infected with Zika in Louisiana, police post on Facebook. But it was a hoax.

A Louisiana police department’s Facebook page has warned that meth in the area is contaminated with the Zika virus.

The Harahan Police Department post on Saturday offered to test meth for free by sending an officer to the privacy of your home.

The original post went viral, with 818 comments and 5,686 shares as of Monday morning.

The post raised enough eyebrows that Harahan Police Chief Tim Walker has since admitted it was a stunt to raise awareness of drug abuse problems. He also confirmed it’s not possible for meth to have the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

No one showed up at the police department with their meth, though one man’s comment gave his home address and invited police to come test his drugs. The address he gave was that of the police department.

The Zika virus, caused by a bite by an infected mosquito, can cause a pregnant woman to pass the virus to her fetus, resulting in birth defects. It also can be passed through sex.

No cases of Zika were transmitted locally in the U.S. in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All cases were contracted outside of the country.

Outgoing Harahan Mayor Tina Miceli was critical of the post, The Advocate says, though incoming Mayor Tim Baudier said he took it as a joke.

The police department’s post drew positive, negative and sarcastic comments and GIFs, but not everybody got the joke.

Here’s some of the comments on the police department’s Facebook page:

  • “It’s a trap!”

  • “That’s bait!”

  • “I get mine in Mississippi, so I’m all good!”

  • “How many idiots will fall for this. (Zika) is spread by mosquitoes you idiots not ingredients in Meth. You deserve jail if you’re this stupid to put that crap in your bodies anyways.”

  • “They should have offered a free 65” TV to everyone that brings their drugs in to be tested, they would have a line out the door!”

  • “Officer Moody should get an award for such a post as this. Classic!”

  • “Why not help these people instead of ruining their lives with 5th rare attempts at humor on social media.”

  • “Shame on the Harahan Police Department for making a joke out of drug addiction. It’s time to make a joke out of them!”

The department shared a new post Sunday, urging drug users to “please reach out “ to family, clergy or social services if they want help.

The updated post did not acknowledge that the original post was “fake news.” But the police chief on Sunday said they got the idea for the stunt from other law enforcement agencies that have shared similar posts, The New Orleans Advocate says.

West Nile Virus is a more serious mosquito-borne threat than Zika in South Mississippi. Harrison County had at least four confirmed cases of West Nile in 2018, with at least 40 cases reported statewide.

The police department post is similar to a gimmick by a South Mississippi law enforcement agency in 2003, but that stunt yielded 10 arrests. The Picayune Police Department set up a false storefront and mailed cards to suspects wanted on warrants, telling they them had won a big-screen TV. Those who made appointments were arrested when they showed up.

Night spraying is just one tool Harrison County Mosquito Control uses during active mosquito season.

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Robin Fitzgerald covers real-time news, such as crime, public safety and trending stories. In nearly 40 years as a journalist, her highest honors include investigative awards for covering the aftermath of the fatal beating of a Harrison County jail inmate in 2006 and related civil rights violations. She is a Troy University graduate.

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