A substance originally intended to tranquilize elephants but proven lethal to humans could be to blame for a deadly overdose in Franklin County and Summit Health is taking steps to protect employees from the drug.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid 10,000 times more potent than morphine. A dose the size of five to seven grains of table salt can incapacitate an average sized man.

The drug not only carries serious risk for those using it, but to first responders and health care workers who may come into contact with it while treating patients.

Summit Health is updating policies and equipment to ensure its front-line staff at both Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals have the tools they need to handle the substance safely.

“Our staff cannot be too careful when dealing with this dangerous substance and the fact that it is hard to see a particle of carfentanil on someone’s clothes presents our staff with additional challenges,” explained Waynesboro Hospital Emergency Department Director Joe Nadzady. “We need to make sure we are able to offer the best care to our community, and protecting our caregivers is vital to us being able to help others.”

Policy changes were communicated to staff last week, including adaptations to personal protection equipment worn by clinical employees. Now staff members treating anyone with a suspected opioid overdose are to wear a gown, gloves, goggles and a special mask that can filter particles out of the air, according to a news release from Summit Health.