Saturday, April 19, 2003

Lost Viruses?

Dangerous strains of cholera, black fever, HIV, polio and hepatitis may have been lost during the postwar looting of Iraq's key disease-control facility, ABCNEWS has learned. The U.S. military is worried they may be used as weapons.

In an exclusive report, ABCNEWS' Brian Ross revealed that scientists at Baghdad's Central Public Health Laboratory are worried that an unknown number of viruses have been stolen.

Scientists say looters took refrigerators full of the deadly viruses last Friday, but they're not sure what's actually missing.

"They are in containers, all of these things taken together, cholera, AIDS and black fever," chemist Rasa Al-Alaq said. "The viruses that are lost, we have no idea where they went."


The failure of the U.S. military to prevent the looting greatly concerned and angered the director of the lab.

"The Americans shouldn't just protect Ministry of Oil, they should protect all the general public health services," said Mounier Kuba, the lab's director.

The lab was inspected by the United Nations as recently as Dec. 30. No biological weapons were found, but the United States has been suspicious that the Ministry of Health was involved in an Iraqi biological weapons program.

"A building like this should have been known to intelligence and it should have been a high-category target to come and secure this building," said Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. diplomat who is now an ABCNEWS consultant.

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