Feds Arrest Kenneth Curtis of Tupelo, Mississippi, Suspect in “Ricin Letters” to Obama, Wicker

Authorities in protective suits entered a mail sorting facility in suburban Washington on Wednesday in connection with the investigation into a letter laced with ricin that was sent to Senator Roger Wicker.

Ricin-laced letters were sent to President Barack Obama and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker were both postmarked April 8 and sent from Memphis, Tenn., signed “I am KC and I approve this message.” A third letter was sent to Michigan Sen. Carl Levin.

A contaminated letter was intercepted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at an off-site White House mail facility and was being tested further. A similar letter was addressed to Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss and intercepted at the mail facility the day before.

Results from full laboratory tests are expected in the next 24 to 48 hours. A field test of the substance on the letters was inconclusive, but shows some level of ricin of unknown potency. Historically threatening letters have contained ground castor beans, resulting in a positive field test for ricin without the concentrated poison. Ricin is a natural protein component.

Oral ingestion of 5-20 broken or chewed castor beans (seeds) can prove fatal to adults. Ricin is in the pulp of the seed, which if not chewed or broken can pass through the digestive system without being digested and without harmful effects.

Concentration of natural ricin increases the toxicity of the protein.

Ricin disrupts protein synthesis, which after a delayed harmful process, causes severe diarrhea and shock. Death typically occurs within 3–5 days of the initial exposure to the poison, which is lethal at about 1/228 the quantity of aspirin (by inhalation). Ingestion is much less toxic.

Ricin toxicity and castor bean toxicity can cause nausea, tachycardia, hypotension, severe diarrhea, hepatic necrosis, renal failure, erythrocyte hemolysis, convulsions (lasting as long as one week), shock, and death.

See also …
CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response

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