Terrorists can exploit fears during a pandemic
Published on Feb 28, 2014 7:40 PM
Pandemic expert Richard Coker experienced a scare in 2006 when he was suspected of having been exposed to a radioactive substance that killed an ex-Russian agent that same year.
The spy Alexander Litvinenko died after drinking tea laced with the rare radioactive isotope, polonium-210, in a plush hotel in London. Traces of polonium were later found across London and even on some flights between London and Moscow.
Professor Coker was among the thousands who received a letter from the authorities saying that he might have been exposed to the poison and needed to go for tests. Fortunately, he was not affected.
"I had never heard of polonium, an odourless, tasteless substance. It created a lot of anxiety for those who were exposed to it as well as those who were suspected of being exposed to it,'' says 53-year-old Prof Coker. More than 1,000 people jammed the London authorities' telephone lines, afraid that they had polonium poisoning.
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