July 17, 2009 -- A woman who says she was stuck by hypodermic needles stuffed into the pocket of a pair of shorts she was trying on in a Texas Kohl's is undergoing tests for disease as officials investigate.
The 47-year-old woman told worker's at Houston-area Kohl's that she had been trying on the shorts Thursday when she was pricked in the leg, according to Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Gilliland.
"We met with the store manager and they're going to handle it internally as far as a video tape ... see if they can find anything unusual," he told ABCNews.com
The woman's common-law husband told ABC's Houston affiliate KTRK that the syringes appeared to have been used, with dried blood on the needles. Now the woman, who hasn't been identified, is undergoing preventative treatment as well as testing, something that will continue over the next several months.
"There's no indication who left these there, you know, what their condition is," the husband, whose name is also being withheld, told KTRK. "You've got possible exposure to all kinds of communicable diseases."
"We take the safety of our customers and associates seriously, and continue to investigate the situation and will cooperate with the authorities accordingly," Vicki Shamion, Kohl's vice president of public relations, said in a statement.
Kohl's, which has 1,022 stores in 49 states, posted sales of $16.5 billion in 2007. An employee at the store where the woman was allegedly pricked told KTRK that employees canvassed the store after the woman complained to make sure there weren't syringes in any other garments.
"We're going through all the pants to make sure that everything checks out all right," the employee told the station. "We just want to be sure that the entire store is safe after this."
Deputies Holding Needles as Evidence After Woman Gets Pricked in Kohl's
The woman's husband said they were both unhappy with the way the Kohl's handled the situation, that they weren't taking her claim seriously. He maintained that the store only called the sheriff's office after he asked them to.
"That's the first question I asked them, 'Did you call law enforcement?' They told me they hadn't. They had called their loss prevention individual," he told KTRK.
Gilliland said there wasn't much that deputies could do at this point, other than wait for Kohl's to determine if there was anything that could lead them to a suspect or even if the needles were placed in the shorts pocket intentionally.
Gilliland said someone could possibly be charged with improperly discarding medical waste. And if they're able to determine the syringes were placed in the shorts intentionally, it could be treated as an assault.
The syringes are being held by the sheriff's office as possible evidence. Gilliland said the police report did not indicate whether deputies noticed blood or any other material on the needles.
Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., said the biggest risk from a needle stick would be contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
"The likelihood is small, but real," he told ABCNews.com.
Schaffner, who is not involved with this woman's treatment, said most doctors follow protocol in these situations put in place by the Centers for Disease Control.
"What they will do is draw some blood now as a baseline, find out whether she's been exposed to any of these diseases in the past," he said, adding that they may also look to see if she's been vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Preventative therapy against HIV -- a good idea, he said, if she saw blood on the needle -- has also been proven to be "very successful" in preventing infection.
Schaffner also noted that the more shallow a stick is, the less chance there is for contracting disease.
"If everything is okay in six months then she can put this behind her," he said.