Radiation exposure symptoms

FRESNO, Calif.

Stories of the resilience of the Japanese people are emerging out of the rubble of so much destruction. That spirit is being tested even further, as the nuclear danger escalates, and people are tested for exposure.

Japanese officials said the damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, released radiation directly into the atmosphere.

ABC News Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser says as people are being tested for radiation exposure, they may notice symptoms similar to what cancer patients go through in treatment.

Dr. Besser said, "The earliest symptoms of a large dose of radiation affect the gastro-intestinal tract. So nausea, vomiting, diahhrea. Those are the same symptoms of someone going through radiation treatment for cancer. If you have that, it indicates that someone has been exposed to a lot of radiation. The problem there is that they are the same signs as stomach flu so they would need to be tested to see if they got a big dose of radiation".

The cancer risk from radiation depends on proximity -- how close you were to the radiation source. Intensity -- how much radiation you were exposed to and duration -- how long was the exposure.

Dr. Besser also says the disaster in Japan serves as a reminder to everyone to have an emergency plan in place.

"What you want to have is enough material to stay at home and take care of yourself for a minimum of three days," said Dr. Besser. "That's having enough food and water, enough medication, flashlights and a battery-powered radio and a first aid kit."

Dr. Besser says contact information for all family members should also be part of your emergency plan including where your family would meet-up in a disaster and who would be your "distant contact" to help locate family members.

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