On Monday, February 2, 2004, powder was found in a mail processing room in the Dirksen Senate office building in Washington D.C.; Confirmatory testing of environmental samples is pending, but preliminary testing strongly suggests ricin.
At this time, there is no known direct impact on Delaware. However, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is advising the medical community of this event and providing information about ricin as a prudent measure.
Ricin is a potent cytotoxin derived from the beans of the castor plant.
Inhalation: respiratory irritation or cough and respiratory distress, followed by pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, and multisystem organ failure. Weakness and influenza-like-illness of fever, myalgia, and arthralgia may be noted.
Ingestion: profuse vomiting and diarrhea, which may or may not be bloody, followed by hypovolemic shock and multisystem organ failure. Weakness and influenza-like-illness of fever, myalgia, and arthralgia may be noted.
There is no test for clinical specimens. The DPH laboratory is equipped to test for the cytotoxin in environmental samples only.
DPH continues to conduct daily syndromic surveillance with all acute care hospitals in Delaware to assist in the detection of unusual patient syndrome clusters, such as would be observed in ricin poisoning.