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Risk to public ‘low’ after nerve agent attack in Salisbury

Public Health England issues precautionary advice

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 12 March 2018

Public health advice has been issued for those who were in Salisbury during the recent nerve agent attack.

The advice is applicable to anyone who visited The Mill pub in Salisbury between 13.30 hours on Sunday 4 March and closing time at 23.10 hours on Monday 5 March, or the nearby Zizzi restaurant between 13.30 hours on Sunday 4 March and closing time at 21.00 hours on Monday 5 March.

In updated advice from Public Health England (PHE), the risk to public health remains ‘low’. PHE issued a summary of public health actions following the attack on an ex-Russian spy and his daughter.

Trace amounts of the substance used to poison the victims were found on and around a table where the pair had eaten in Zizzi on 4 March, and at the Mill Pub.

Yesterday, up to 500 Salisbury pub-goers and diners were told to wash their possessions as a precaution.

Commenting, Dr Jenny Harries, deputy medical director at Public Health England said: “The immediate risk to the general public remains low and this has not changed. Rigorous scientific analysis has been ongoing and we have learnt that there has been some limited contamination in both The Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury. Anyone who visited The Mill pub or Zizzi restaurant where the two affected individuals were can be reassured that this limited exposure will not have harmed their health to date.

“However, there may be a very small health risk associated with repeated contact with belongings which may have been contaminated by this substance. We therefore recommend that a precautionary approach is taken and advise people to clean the clothes they were wearing and any possessions they had with them.”

She added: “We want to reiterate that the immediate risk to those affected is extremely low and this is a precautionary measure.”

Chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has also described the risk of harm as ‘low.’ She said the measures advised were ‘belt and braces’.

PHE advises that anyone in the locations mentioned, should take the following precautions:

  • wash clothing that hasn’t already been in the washing machine
  • any items which cannot be washed, and which would normally be dry cleaned, should be put into two plastic bags, tied at the top and stored safely at home 
  • wipe personal items such as phones, handbags and other electronic items with cleansing or baby wipes and dispose of the wipes in the bin
  • wash other items such as jewellery and spectacles which cannot go in the washing machine with warm water and detergent and rinse with clean, cold water
  • wash hands thoroughly after cleaning any items.
PHE is currently reviewing the best way of cleaning potentially contaminated clothes and promises further advice on its website.

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