Breaking News

The news never stops, not even on the weekend.

We’re covering two breaking stories about two extremely serious biological threat agents: ricin and ebola.

Ebola in West Africa

In early February 2014, health agents began tracking a case of viral hemorrhagic fever in Guinea, in Western Africa.  On March 21, Drs. Sylvain Baize and Delphine Pannetier from the National Reference Center for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers at the Pasteur Institue in Lyon, France were able to identify the Ebola virus, subtype Zaire, in 6 of 7 clinical case samples from the outbreak. Since February 9, there have been 59 deaths from 80 reported cases of Ebola Zaire virus.

Over this weekend there has been growing concern that the virus may have crossed over into neighboring Sierra Leone. “Sierra Leone’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brima Kargbo said authorities were investigating the case of a 14-year-old boy who died in the town of Buedu in the eastern Kailahun District. The boy had travelled to Guinea to attend the funeral of one of the outbreak’s earlier victims.”

Ricin in Pennsylvania

A 19 year old Pennsylvania man was arrested last week and charged with attempted murder and risking catastrophe for allegedly sending a scratch-and-sniff birthday card laced with ricin to a man now dating his ex-girlfriend. Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler stressed that the toxin was extremely potent.

When the suspect was initially questioned about the card in early March, he told police he had coated the card with sodium hydroxide because it resembles Anthrax toxin. It was during lab testing that the card tested positive for ricin toxin. The man is being held without bail in Bucks County, PA.

For more on Ricin, check out Dr. Alexander Garza’s backgrounder.

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