What exactly is ricin?

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

The exact definition is “A highly toxic protein obtained from the pressed seeds of castor-oil plant,” but what exactly does that mean?

For fans of AMC’s show “Breaking Bad,” they know ricin was the Walter White cooked up in a failed plot to kill a rival meth dealer. In the show, ricin was an ideal poison because even though it is not the fastest way of killing someone, it leaves behind little or no trace of its use on a victim.

Ricin is naturally found in castor beans and can be formed into a powder, mist or pellet, or even added to water, according to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Preventions.

Ricin is a tricky poison because it may not produce any symptoms until it’s too late. Symptoms include respiratory distress, followed by nausea, coughing, and fever, which could then lead to death. If exposure is fatal, people will most likely die within five days.

There is no remedy for ricin poisoning. It is treated by medical care. If it gets on your body, remove it as quickly as possibl.e

The illnesses associated with ricin are not contagious from person to person through casual contact. If you come in contact with someone who has it on their body or clothes, you could become exposed to it.

Earlier today a suspicious letter was sent to President Barack Obama which tested positive for ricin, according to the FBI. The envelope, which was addressed to the White House, was immediately quarantined.

A similar letter was sent Tuesday to Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker. Preliminary tests show the envelope contained the deadly poison ricin.

The letter was sent to a lab for further tests.

Follow Mary Ann Georgantopoulos on Twitter @marygeorgant 



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