Two women, one of them from the United States, allegedly fell ill while flying to Europe

Even if you’re not nervous about flying in an era of terrorist attacks, there’s still a reason you should always protect yourself. You may have to do so more easily than ever, because two recent cases involving two women have inspired investigators to speculate that they were fed some type of deadly toxin or toxin-based contaminant on their journey to Europe.

But on Friday, Canada issued a warning that it believes “Russian Federal Security Service operatives may have [sprayed] an alternative — and potentially harmful — substance on two women in Canada in December 2017, which may have been transmitted through a routine hand-to-hand interaction.” Further, CBC News reports that Interpol issued an alert Thursday declaring 1,200 soccer teams to be “high risk” and urging fans attending games in Russia during the World Cup next month to beware of sophisticated espionage tactics.

The suspected toxins were neither deadly, nor were they stored in lethal concentrations in public places; rather, they were spread on individual people via contaminated food and water. They may not kill people who consume them, but they could cause difficulty breathing, skin burns, and vomiting. But how did they end up on women?

Last week, Christine Ford, the wife of an airline pilot in California, and her twin sister received multiple emergency medical referrals for nose bleeds. The first was prompted by exposure to a potentially tainted potpourri in the family home, and the second was from a routine exposure to a kitchen utensil. While most of the women described symptoms in mid- to late-March, Ford said she fell ill in late February. Now, authorities are saying that they may have exposure to something nasty while flying to Europe; Ford had an emergency operation to remove a brain tumor, and she’s been in and out of the hospital for two weeks. After their trip to Europe, the sisters experienced a “flu-like illness” and then developed pain in their eyes, jaw, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract, according to CNN.

ABC reports that the women were in the air in February and that they had “not ingested any toxic material in the air on the airline flights.” They do, however, believe that they were exposed while over the Atlantic when they arrived in Paris to catch a flight to London and then try to catch a connecting flight to Moscow. During their journey, they also drank “soda and water” during layovers and a local restaurant.

The Canadian women, along with a third individual, have been interviewed by health authorities about their recent illnesses. And in March, the plane carrying these women was inspected by airline officials.

“There was no evidence of malicious intent or malicious intent on the part of anyone who would put a person in that situation,” Ed Remillard, a spokesman for the Canadian Border Services Agency, told ABC.

Still, the two women said they felt sick from the moment they got on board. Prior to this incident, they were not known to have had illnesses of any sort.

Since the Canadian women were not hospitalized and did not appear to be at risk for a nerve or poison attack, it’s tough to tell how the possibility of exposure or contamination among passengers was spread across their flights; one (or both) flights went through German airspace, French airspace, and airspace controlled by Portugal. While they traveled, the women’s clothes and food were washed. This is also why, even though there haven’t been any reported cases of anyone falling ill from poisoning on a plane, authorities stress that if anyone travels during a risky period of time, it should be suspected of suspicious activity.

The men currently being investigated by British and French officials are not connected to the two cases of travelers showing symptoms, police said Thursday, according to the BBC. Both investigators are expressing new concern that the suspected substances were brought on planes and that there could be more contamination out there.

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