A  A  A   Print
Man Arrested in Tainted Letter Case, Officials Report

Man Arrested in Tainted Letter Case, Officials Report

THURSDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- A Mississippi man has been arrested in connection with the sending of letters suspected of being tainted with the deadly toxin ricin to President Obama and a Republican senator, federal agents said Wednesday night.

The FBI has identified the suspect as Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Miss., according to the New York Times.

On Wednesday, officials reported that a preliminary, inconclusive test suggests the deadly toxin ricin was in a letter sent to President Obama on Tuesday, officials report.

The letter was intercepted at the White House mail screening facility, which is not located near the White House complex, USA Today reported Wednesday.

The preliminary test showed evidence of ricin, but the FBI said only a complete second test can confirm if the letter actually did contain the deadly poison, the Associated Press reported.

Ricin, which is found in the castor oil plant, can prove deadly if inhaled, one expert noted.

"Without a doubt, ricin is toxic," said Victoria Richards, a toxicologist and assistant professor of medical sciences at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

"If castor beans are eaten [about 20 for an adult] death can occur in six to eight days," Richards said. "When concentrated, ricin powder may be lethal in a much shorter timeframe. There is a process called oral inhalation, in which powders or aerosolized agents [depending on the particle size] can be deposited in the mouth and eventually swallowed."

If swallowed, "ricin will cause nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and dehydration," Richards added. "Multiple organ damage also occurs, and eventually death."

At least three U.S. senators also reported receiving suspicious mail in recent days. A letter sent to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., tested positive for ricin in a preliminary test. On Wednesday morning, a suspicious letter was received by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and a suspicious package was received by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

"We do not know yet if the mail presented a threat," Levin said, USA Today reported.

The letter received by Wicker on Tuesday contained a "white granular substance" and was quarantined before the initial test indicated that the substance was ricin. The letter was intercepted at an off-site mail facility. The material has been sent to an accredited laboratory for further analysis.

The president was briefed on the suspicious letters on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday morning, said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, USA Today reported.

More information

For more on ricin, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Victoria Richards, Ph.D., assistant professor of medical sciences, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn; USA Today

 

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.