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UK officer hospitalized in connection with nerve agent given the ‘all clear,’ police say

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Posted at 7:35 PM, Jul 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-07 19:35:08-04

A police officer who sought medical advice in connection with an ongoing investigation of Novichok nerve agent exposure in Amesbury, England, has been given the “all clear,” according to Wiltshire Police.

The officer sought assistance at Great Western Hospital in Swindon on Saturday, said a Salisbury District Hospital spokesperson, and was transferred to Salisbury District Hospital to be tested. The spokesperson said the transfer was needed because the Salisbury Hospital “has the ability to carry out the appropriate specialist tests.”

Wiltshire Police said on Twitter that the officer was medically cleared.

“Pleased to confirm that the police officer who sought precautionary medical advice at Salisbury District Hospital in connection with the incident in Amesbury has been assessed & given the all clear,” the department said.

Earlier on Saturday, the Salisbury District Hospital spokesperson said other residents have come forward with similar health concerns but none required treatment. “We would like to reiterate the advice from Public Health England that the risk to the wider public remains low,” the spokesperson said.

A couple from Amesbury was hospitalized last Saturday for what is being described as poisoning from Novichok. British news agencies identified the couple as Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44. A massive police presence in Amesbury and Salisbury is investigating to find the source of the contamination.

In March, former Russian Spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were nearly killed after being exposed to the same Soviet-era nerve agent. The incident sparked a diplomatic dispute between the UK and Russia after British investigators and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) blamed Moscow for the incident.

Salisbury District Hospital has treated all four victims. The couple is still in critical condition. Skripal was discharged from the hospital in May and his daughter was released in April.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid called Thursday for Russia to provide explanations after it was confirmed the couple hospitalized last week was exposed to the same nerve agent as Skripal and his daughter.

Neil Basu, the assistant commissioner for counter terrorism with London’s Metropolitan Police, said authorities were looking into whether the two incidents were linked. Britain has not accused Russia of deliberately targeting the latest victims, who have been described as local residents with no ties to Russia.

Russia has denied the allegations, but more than 20 other countries expelled Russian diplomats in a show of support for the UK.

Nerve agents kill by affecting the nervous system in various ways.

Novichok, which works by causing a slowing of the heart and restriction of the airways, is one of the world’s rarest nerve agents. Very few people outside of Russia have experience with it.

It was first developed in secret by the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the 1980s, as a means of countering U.S. chemical weapons defenses, but was revealed to the world by former Soviet scientist and whistleblower Vil Mirzayanov.

Mirzayanov told CNN that Novichok is up to 10 times as potent as VX, the weapon used to kill Kim Jong Un’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, in 2017.

“A lethal dose … and the person will die immediately. If [the dosage] is less, [the person] will go through very tortuous scenes. They will start convulsions, and stop breathing and then lose vision, and there are other problems – vomiting, everything. It’s a terrible scene,” Mirzayanov told CNN.

Related: English victims poisoned by same Novichok nerve agent used on ex-spy

21 reportedly treated in connection with attack on Russian spy