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Ricin poisoningBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ricin/AN02211
- With Mayo Clinic internist
James M. Steckelberg, M.D.read biographyclose window
James M. Steckelberg, M.D.James Steckelberg, M.D.
Dr. James Steckelberg is a consultant in the Division of Infectious Diseases and a professor of medicine at Mayo Medical School.
A native of Fremont, Neb., Dr. Steckelberg was a Rhodes Scholar and graduated from the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine as a resident in internal medicine and a fellow in infectious diseases, and is board certified in both. He is the former director of the Infectious Diseases Research Laboratory at Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Steckelberg belongs to numerous professional organizations. He is a founding member of the Musculoskeletal Infection Society and a fellow of the American College of Physicians and of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He has served on many Mayo Clinic committees and is a member of the Department of Medicine Leadership Committee and of the executive committee of the Division of Infectious Diseases. He also served on the editorial boards of "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" and "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy" and has been an editorial reviewer for more than a dozen publications.
Dr. Steckelberg's research interests include experimental models of infection, epidemiology of infection, and antimicrobial resistance and therapy of bacterial infections.
What is ricin, and what should I do if I'm exposed?
from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.
Ricin is a poison that can be made from the waste left over from processing castor beans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Castor beans are used to make castor oil.
Ricin can potentially be used as a biological weapon. It can be turned into an aerosol and inhaled. It can also be ingested from poisoned food or a contaminated water supply or injected.
Signs and symptoms of ricin poisoning depend on whether a person inhales or ingests ricin. Inhaled ricin causes fever, chest tightness, cough and severe respiratory problems, including fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Ingested ricin causes intestinal bleeding and organ damage. The poison can kill within three days of exposure. Even a small amount of ricin may be fatal.
No widely available, reliable test exists to confirm exposure to ricin. There's no vaccine or antidote for ricin poisoning. Treatment is primarily supportive care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if exposed to ricin:
- Get fresh air immediately by moving away from the area in which the ricin was released.
- Remove any clothing that may have ricin on it, taking care not to pull exposed clothing over your head, but rather cutting the clothing off.
- Rinse any skin exposed to ricin with large amounts of soap and water, and if your eyes have been exposed, rinse with lots of water for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Dispose of any exposed clothing by sealing it in a plastic bag, then enclosing that bag in another sealed plastic bag. Take care to protect yourself from exposure by using rubber gloves, tongs or other such objects.
- Facts about ricin. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/ricin/facts.asp. Accessed April 18, 2013.