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WHO issues new advice on stockpiling radiation sickness medicines in event of nuclear attack

The World Health Organization has given new advice on stockpiling drugs to treat radiation sickness amid fears that a war in Ukraine could lead to a nuclear emergency.

The UN health authority has updated its 15-year list of medicines that medical services should have on hand for “radiological and nuclear emergencies”.

Sources have confirmed that the new council was prompted by an 11-month war that has raised a number of nuclear threats.

Fighting or shelling around the country’s nuclear power plants has increased the likelihood of battle damage that could cause radiation to leak.

Vladimir Putin also said in October that Ukraine was preparing to detonate a low-yield radioactive “dirty bomb” on its territory. His claims have led Kyiv and other Western observers to speculate that the Russian leader may have been plotting his own attack under a false flag.

In extreme cases, military analysts fear that Russia could move to use tactical nuclear weapons as it continues to suffer casualties on the battlefield.

The new guidelines address scenarios including “radiological or nuclear emergencies at nuclear power plants” and “deliberate use of radioactive materials with malicious intent.”

“Living in a Time of Unprecedented Peril”

Dr Maria Neira, Acting Assistant Director-General of WHO, said: “In radiation emergencies, people can be exposed to doses ranging from minor to life-threatening.

“Governments must make treatment available to those in need – and quickly,” she added. “It is very important that governments are prepared to protect public health and respond immediately to emergencies. This includes having a ready supply of life-saving drugs that will reduce risks and heal radiation injuries.”

Supplies should include supplies such as iodine tablets to protect the thyroid and cytokines used to reduce bone marrow damage in cases of acute radiation poisoning.

Other medicines are used to treat vomiting, diarrhea, and infections.

The new guidelines also address future therapies and countermeasures, which “provides insight into future medical countermeasures that could be used to treat overexposed patients.”

Earlier this week, the Doomsday Clock, used by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to illustrate global existential threats, was moved closer to midnight, largely due to threats related to the war in Ukraine.

The clock was installed in 1947, at the dawn of the age of nuclear weapons.

Rachel Bronson, Bulletin’s president and chief executive officer, said the clock had been moved from 100 seconds to midnight to 90 seconds “primarily, though not exclusively, because of the rising danger of war in Ukraine.”

“We live in a time of unprecedented peril, and the Doomsday Clock reflects that reality,” Ms Bronson said.

“Ninety seconds to midnight is the closest clock has ever moved to midnight, and it’s not an easy decision for our experts to make.”

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