How does it spread?
Onset of acute symptoms include fever, chest tightness, cough,
difficulty in breathing, nausea, and arthralgias 4 - 8 hours after
inhalational exposure, followed by severe respiratory distress
and death from hypoxemia in 36-72 hours. Profuse sweating several
hours later signal termination of most of the symptoms.
When eaten, ricin causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms followed by vascular collapse and death.
Ricin is not communicable person to person.
Transmission is by inhaling the organism during industrial operations and also through ingestion of castor bean meal.
The primary threat in biowarfare would be by aerosol release. This feature may limit the use of ricin as a tactical weapon; however, it can be used for small-scale operations. The agent may also be delivered through contamination of food and water supplies.
Acute lung injury in large numbers of geographically clustered
patients suggests exposure to aerosolized ricin. The rapid time
course to severe symptoms and death would be unusual for infectious
agents. Serum and respiratory secretions should be submitted for
antigen detection (ELISA). Acute and convalescent sera provide
diagnosis after the fact. Nonspecific laboratory and radiographic findings include
leukocytosis and bilateral interstitial infiltrates.
Supportive care including intensive care measures, such as oxygen,
tracheotomy and mechanical ventilation and positive end-expiratory
pressure may be required for respiratory disease.
Therapy is supportive and should include maintenance of intravascular volume. Standard management for poison ingestion should be employed if intoxication is by the oral route.
There is presently no antitoxin or specific therapeutic drugs available for treatment.
None available, but vaccines are under development.
No statistics available.
USAMRIID's Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbood; Fourth Edition February 2001; pages 9-10; http://usamriid.detrick.army.mil/education/bluebook/bluebook.pdf
Federation of American Scientists; http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/bw/agent.htm
Virtual Naval Hospital: Treatment of Biological Warfare Agent Casualties; http://www.vnh.org/FM8284/index.html
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How does it spread?