Preliminary results confirm ricin in Las Vegas case

Still under investigation, no terrorism link confirmed

As this issue of Bioterrorism Watch went to press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was investigating a case of ricin exposure in Las Vegas. The CDC said "preliminary results of environmental testing at laboratories in Nevada have tested positive for ricin."

On the CDC list of possible bioterrorism agents, ricin is a powerful toxin derived from castor beans. According to the Associated Press, a 57-year-old graphic artist remained unconscious on a ventilator after being hospitalized Feb. 14 for respiratory distress. Authorities suspect the man was exposed to ricin, which is deadly even in minuscule amounts. But they cannot be sure because the poison breaks down in the body within days, the AP reported. He was hospitalized for two weeks before the ricin was discovered in his motel room. (Editor's note: For more on this story, see the summer issue of Bioterrorism Watch.)