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Ricin is protein toxin found in castor beans, and is applied as …

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How likely is someone to die from ricin poisoning?
- Ricin

The seriousness of poisoning caused by ricin depends on the purity of the ricin used, the amount of ricin a person comes into contact with, the length of time that a person is exposed and the way a person comes into contact with it. If ricin is injected or inhaled (breathed in), as little as 500 micrograms of ricin – an amount that would fit on the head of a pin – could be enough to kill an adult. A greater amount would likely be needed to kill someone if the ricin was put in food or drink.


Treatment for ricin poisoning


Prevention of illness after contact: First, leave the area where the ricin was released and move to fresh air.

o        Remove clothing.

*Quickly take off clothing that may have ricin on it. If possible, any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead so the ricin does not get near the eyes, mouth or nose. If helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any areas that may have ricin on them, and remove the clothing as fast as possible.

o        Wash affected areas.

*As quickly as possible, wash any ricin from the skin with lots of soap and water.

*If the eyes are burning or vision is blurred, rinse the eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes.

*If contact lenses are worn, remove them and put them with the clothing. Do not put the contacts back in. If eyeglasses are worn, wash them with soap and water. Eyeglasses can be put back on after they are washed.

o        Discard contaminated items.

*Place the clothing and any other contaminated items that may have come into contact with ricin inside a plastic bag. Avoid touching them by wearing rubber gloves, turning the bag inside out and using it to pick up the clothing, or putting the clothing in the bag using tongs, tool handles, sticks or similar objects. Anything that touches the contaminated clothing should also be placed in the bag.

*Seal the bag, and then seal that bag inside another plastic bag.

*Contact the local county health department right away. The health department or emergency personnel will arrange for further disposal. Do not handle the plastic bags yourself.

If someone has ingested ricin, do not make the person vomit and do not give fluids to drink.


Treatment of illness: There is no specific treatment for ricin poisoning. After poisoning, it is important to get the ricin  out of the body as quickly as possible. Supportive care in a hospital is the standard treatment.


Medical care could include helping victims , giving them intravenous fluids, giving them medications to treat conditions such low blood pressure, flushing their stomachs with activated charcoal (a substance that binds with the poison in the stomach) or washing their eyes with water.  Acetaminophen for fever, and cough suppressants may make the patient more comfortable. Hydration is important. For those with pulmonary intoxification, respiratory support may be necessary. Standard management techniques for oral poisoning should be used if the toxin is ingested.

There is no vaccine for ricin poisoning.


Rapid diagnostic assay


Nasal or throat swabs and respiratory secretions may be collected for toxin assay. Blood for serum may be collected. Toxin assays and measurement of antibody response can be performed on serum. ELISA's are available for the detection of ricin. If ricin is  use as a weapon, clustering of patients with similar symptoms may be the first and only clue.

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