Health expert calls ricin poisoning "an agonizing death"

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A letter addressed to President Barack Obama tested positive for ricin Wednesday, and a Mississippi man is the prime suspect. The FBI confirmed the letter is related to the one addressed to Senator Roger Wicker.

Both letters contained the same message, "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." It was signed, "I am KC and I approve this message."

It now appears "KC" may be Kenneth Curtis of Tupelo. The Mississippi man was taken into custody by federal authorities Wednesday night.

A white powdery substance was found inside both letters, which preliminary tests show to be ricin. It's a rare poison that is extremely dangerous and often fatal.

"It is sort of an agonizing death and there is no antidote to the poison," Dr. Robert Travnicek with the Mississippi Department of Health explained. "What you do is have to keep them alive the best you can. But you can't go to the drug store or doctor to get a shot. There isn't any."

Dr. Travnicek said the substance is made from Castor beans.

"It can be refined into an extremely dangerous powder through a kind of extensive chemical process of some kind. Then it is considered to be a potential bio terrorist vehicle to deliver bad things to people," Travnicek said.

The poison can be inhaled or ingested, but it is more dangerous when inhaled.

"They will be sick enough to be in the hospital probably within four to six hours," Travnicek said. "Everyone would get sick depending on how many milligrams. Tiny, tiny amounts of this would be very deadly."

Luckily, the letters never reached the hands of President Obama or Senator Wicker. Senator Wicker is not saying much, but he did release a statement thanking law enforcement officials for their hard work.

The FBI said the substance has undergone more tests to see if the substance is actually ricin, and those tests usually take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

Several other letters addressed to lawmakers have been checked by authorities, but have not come back positive for any sort of poison.

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