An 8-year-old boy in Colorado may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease after a disgusting and potentially life-threatening mishap at school.
"He's at risk for HIV, hepatitis C, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia,” the boy’s mother, Alicia, told local ABC affiliate KMGH.
The mother, who went only by her first name to protect her child's identity, said that her 8-year-old son found what he thought was a balloon on a playground at Bennett Elementary School last Tuesday. Her son then tried to blow up the "balloon," she said.
"When [a teacher] took the 'balloon' out of his mouth, it was a used condom," Alicia said. The teacher took the boy inside to wash his hands and mouth, and then threw the condom away. Because there's now no way to test the condom, Alicia says she'll have to have her son tested for STDs. The tests for HIV will stretch over the course of a year.
Bennett Schools Superintendent Dennis Veal told KMGH that the district now hopes to install security cameras on the playground and to increase the frequency of inspections by maintenance staff. However, he wouldn't comment on whether the school is responsible if the child gets sick.
Alicia says the agency that handles insurance for the school denied her claim for her son's STD testing.
Doctors said that the risk of infection is low, since the condom was found outside and could have been there for a while. Still, Alicia is outraged at what she feels is a lack of accountability. If her son does turn out to be infected, she says, life will never be the same for her family.
"That would be a lifelong [process], millions of dollars in medical bills," Alicia said. "This is just an unbelievable tragedy ... This is my son and they failed to protect him."
Cases of preteen children contracting STDs at school are rare. However, last year an Oklahoma mother claimed that her 1-year-old got herpes from an infected teacher at a day care.
Ryan Brown, a pediatrician at Oklahoma University Medical Center, told local news media at the time that herpes is "very easily spread, by touching and rubbing something else or saliva."
Although STD transmission is a frequent concern for adolescent students, viruses like the one that causes herpes are a risk for children of all ages.