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CNN: Poisoned spy's widow, contact 'show no signs of illness'

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  • David McDuff
    Poisoned spy s widow, contact show no signs of illness Story Highlights•NEW: Aircraft cleared for use after being checked for radiation •Alexander
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2006
      Poisoned spy's widow, contact 'show no signs of illness'

      Story Highlights•NEW: Aircraft cleared for use after being checked for
      radiation
      •Alexander Litvinenko's widow tests positive for polonium-210
      •Italian man who met with Litvinenko also tests positive for radiation
      •Both widow and Italian man showing no symptoms of poisoning



      LONDON, England (CNN) -- The widow of former Russian spy Alexander
      Litvinenko and an Italian man he met in a London restaurant are
      showing no signs of illness despite testing positive for a radioactive
      substance used to poison the intelligence officer, friends and
      officials say.

      Mario Scaramella, a security expert, was undergoing further tests
      Saturday in a London hospital after radioactive polonium-210 was found
      in his body a day earlier.

      Dr. Keith Patterson, a consultant hematologist, said Scaramella "is
      currently well and shows no symptoms of radiation poison."

      However, he will undergo more tests over the weekend, the doctor told
      reporters outside University College Hospital.

      "Tests have detected polonium-210 in Mr. Scaramella's body, but at a
      considerably lower level than Mr. Litvinenko's," he added.

      Litvinenko's widow, Marina, has also tested positive for the
      substance, according to a family source.

      But the former spy's friend Alex Goldfarb said Saturday that his widow
      was showing no ill effects and she did not need treatment.

      "She has never been in the hospital," Goldfarb told The Associated Press.

      "She was told that she had minuscule amounts of radioactivity which is
      totally not considered a health hazard."

      Also on Saturday, three British Airways airplanes, grounded while
      authorities examined them for possible traces of radiation connected
      to Litvinenko's death, were cleared to return to service.

      The aircraft are not considered to be a risk to public health,
      according to officials with Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA).

      Health officials said none of the estimated 33,000 passengers and
      3,000 crew aboard the 221 trips flown by those jets since October 25
      were believed to be a risk.

      Another airline, budget carrier easyJet, confirmed Saturday that
      Scaramella had flown with them to London form Naples on October 31 and
      returned on November 3, two days after his meeting with Litvinenko.

      The HPA said there was no risk to the public from those flights.

      On Friday, pathologists took extreme precautions performing an autopsy
      on Litvinenko, according to the coroner's office. (Full story)

      Results will not be known until the criminal probe into Litvinenko's
      death is complete.

      Earlier Friday, the Health Protection Agency -- without naming
      Scaramella -- issued a written statement saying someone who had been
      in close contact with Litvinenko was found to have a "significant
      quantity" of the deadly radioactive substance in his body.

      The HPA said a relative of Litvinenko, who a family source said was
      his widow, also had tested positive for polonium-210, but said the
      amount in her system was "very, very small, and nowhere near the
      amount Mr. Litvinenko had in his body."

      "The levels are not significant enough to result in any illness in the
      short term, and the results are reassuring in that any increased risk
      in the long term is likely to be very small," the agency said.

      "Results from other family members have shown nothing of concern," the
      HPA said. "The risk to public health remains low." (Watch how worried
      you should be about polonium-210 poisoning)

      The agency has been testing urine samples from people who were in
      close contact with Litvinenko after he became ill on November 1. He
      died about three weeks later.

      In explaining the significance of polonium-210 exposure, the health
      agency said: "It is important to remember that polonium-210 is a
      naturally occurring source of radioactive material that we are all
      exposed to during our lifetime.

      "Any extra exposure such as this does not automatically mean the
      individual concerned will suffer any long-term health effects."

      In making its announcements Friday, the HPA asked that anyone who had
      frequented two bars and a restaurant on November 1, the day Litvinenko
      became ill, call the National Health Service. The locations are the
      Itsu restaurant and the Pine Bar or restaurant in the Millennium Hotel.

      Last week, British officials confirmed that traces of radioactive
      material were found at Litvinenko's home and places where he ate and
      met others just before becoming sick.

      On Thursday, British Home Secretary John Reid said investigators had
      found traces of a radioactive material in 12 of 24 sites throughout
      London. (Watch scientists working with polonium in a lab)

      Scaramella told Reuters last month that he met with Litvinenko at the
      Itsu sushi bar November 1 to warn him that he had seen materials
      suggesting that both men were on a hit list, and they needed to take
      precautions.

      In describing the meeting, the security expert said, "He (Litvinenko)
      took the food personally, from a frigobar (mini-refrigerator). It's
      something like a self-service place. He also took something like a
      soup from the people in charge there, and we went downstairs to speak."

      Scaramella continued: "I passed him a couple of papers and I said:
      'Alex, I'm here also to ask you a comment because I received an alarm
      in the last few days from a source that you introduced to me. It's a
      quite strange alert."

      "It was four pages in two e-mails, mentioning some names, some
      circumstances and some facts regarding security of a group of people
      in Great Britain and of a group of people here in Italy," Scaramella
      said. "He (Litvinenko) was included in the list of names of people in
      danger, according to this source."

      Scaramella made his comments via cell phone before attending a joint
      news conference with Guzzanti, former head of parliamentary commission
      that examined cases of past KGB infiltration.

      "(Alexander Litvinenko) was considered a traitor (by Russia's
      establishment), plus a traitor helping the traitors, Chechens,"
      Guzzanti said. "As you know, the problem of the Chechen war is a
      problem of civil rights, torture, fake war, repression."

      He added, "It's a huge and hidden Iraq-like story. From this point of
      view, Litvinenko clearly was considered a foe."

      The Kremlin has denied any involvement in Litvinenko's death.

      Gaidar probe
      Meanwhile, Irish police announced they were launching an investigation
      into the possible poisoning of Yegor Gaidar, architect of Russia's
      market reforms. (Full story)

      Gaidar, 50, became violently ill at a conference in Ireland and was
      rushed to a hospital there, but was said to be improving in a Moscow
      hospital.

      Another attendee at the conference said Friday that Gaidar was ill
      before he arrived in Ireland. (Full story)

      The head of Russia's state atomic energy agency Rosatom, Sergei
      Kiriyenko, told the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that Russia
      produces only eight grams of polonium-210 a month and the material
      cannot be obtained illegally there.

      Kiriyenko declined to say how polonium-210 was produced but said
      nuclear reactors were needed to make it.
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