Ricin is a by-product of the processing of Castor beans for oil. Castor beans grow wildly in arid parts of the United States. Naturally-occurring cases of ricin poisoning involve ingestion of castor beans and are marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms, circulatory failure and death.
Possible Symptoms of Ricin Poisoning
- Fever, cough, difficulty breathing, nausea and chest tightness are followed by extreme sweating, skin turning blue, low blood pressure and finally respiratory failure and circulatory collapse.
- Symptoms will likely appear within eight hours of exposure by inhaling a small particle of aerosolized ricin.
- Time to death would likely be 36-72 hours, depending on the dose received.
How Can Ricin Be Spread?
- Ricin poisoning is not contagious.
- A person must be exposed to ricin by inhalation, ingestion or injection to be poisoned.
How to Treat Ricin
- No specific treatment exists.
- Supportive care should be provided to those suffering from ricin poisoning.
How Can Ricin Be Prevented?
- The diagnosis of ricin poisoning is largely based on symptoms and should be suspected when a large number of patients display similar symptoms. Failure to respond to antibiotics helps to differentiate ricin exposure from lung infections produced by bacterial agents.
- A blood antibody test exists but is not readily available.