Ricin is a powerful poison that could be used as an agent of biological warfare or as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD). Derived from the castor bean, it is easily and inexpensively produced, highly toxic, and stable in aerosol form. People can be affected by breathing it in, by being injected with it, or by coming in contact with it through contaminated food and water.
While it cannot be passed on from one person to another, there is no treatment or vaccine that can protect against it. If used in large enough quantities, its effects could overwhelm local health care resources. In 2004, three U.S. Senate office buildings were closed after ricin was found in the mailroom. Earlier, ricin was found at a White House mail-processing center as well as a post office in South Carolina. Ricin has also been a factor in other criminal and terrorists investigations both in the U.S. and overseas dating back to the early 1990s.
Sporotrichosis is an infection of the skin caused by a fungus, Sporothrix schenckii. This fungus is related more closely to the mold on stale bread or the yeast used to brew beer than to bacteria that usually cause infections. The mold is found on rose thorns, hay, sphagnum moss, twigs, and soil. Therefore, the infection is more common among gardeners who work with roses, moss, hay, and soil.
Symptoms of ricin exposure vary depending on the type of exposure as well as how much was absorbed. People can be exposed by breathing it in as a result of it being sprayed as an aerosol, from consuming it in contaminated food or water, and from being injected with it.
If the ricin is inhaled, it’s likely that more than one person will be affected. In that case, a cluster of people would likely develop similar symptoms within 8 hours of the exposure. Symptoms would include: