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7 students ate gummy bears from a baggie that tested positive for fentanyl and fell sick. Now 2 people have been arrested

Two people have been arrested and charged after seven Virginia elementary students ate gummy bears from a plastic baggie that later tested positive for the potentially deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl, the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

At first, it seemed the students were having an allergic reaction to something they ate Tuesday, Amherst County Public Schools said. The sheriff’s office conducted a field test of the bag, which had “a positive reaction for fentanyl,” the school district said.

“Preliminary investigation shows the students ingested gummy bears from a plastic baggie. In that baggie contained a residue, and the residue tested positive for fentanyl,” sheriff’s spokesperson Lt. Dallas Hill.

Five students were taken to a hospital, including two via ambulance, Hill said. The students – all fourth-graders – experienced symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headache and muscle spasms, he said. The students have since been discharged from the hospital.

As part of its investigation, the sheriff’s office executed a search warrant at a home in Amherst on Tuesday, the spokesperson said.

Clifford Dugan was arrested and held without bond charged on two counts: one of a convicted felon felon in possession of a firearm and one of contributing to the “delinquency, abuse of a child,” jail records show.

Nicole Sanders was also arrested and held on charges of contributing to the “delinquency, abuse of a child,” and possessing Schedule I or Schedule II narcotics, jail records show. She is being held on $1,000 and $1,500 bonds.

Sanders and Dugan are expected to appear via video conference Wednesday afternoon at the Amherst County juvenile and domestic court. It was not immediately clear if either has an attorney.

“This is an ongoing investigation and more charges are possible,” the sheriff’s spokesperson .

“It is believed that at some point the bag came into contact with fentanyl and trace amounts remained on/in the bag,” Amherst County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William Wells .

The residue is being sent to a lab for further testing, and results could take two or three months, Hill said.

Following the incident, the school district “will make it a point of emphasis to remind our students not to share food items. Drug awareness will continue to be a point of emphasis across the division at all schools,” the superintendent said.

Synthetic opioids – primarily involving the powerful drug fentanyl – are the main driver of US overdose deaths, with nearly a 7.5-fold increase overall from 2015 to 2021, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overdoses and poisoning are the third leading cause of death in kids and adolescents age 19 and younger.

In September, a 1-year-old boy died after he and three other children were apparently exposed to fentanyl at a Bronx day care center, authorities said. The day care provider, her husband and his cousin have been indicted on murder and other charges.