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"CIA Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox"

Immunization Newsbriefs (c) Copyright Information Inc., Bethesda, MD. Brought to you by the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii). Visit NNii's new website at http://www.immunizationinfo.org.

 

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December 04, 2002

 

INTERNATIONAL IMMUNIZATION NEWS

 

"CIA Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox"

New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (12/03/02) P. A18; Miller, Judith

 

Senior U.S. officials and foreign scientists report that the CIA is looking into a claim that Iraq may have been given a particularly potent strain of smallpox from a Russian virologist who worked in Moscow's Research Institute for Viral Preparations for over three decades.  Nelja N. Maltseva died two years ago, but she was known to have visited Iraq on several occasions, although that fact is denied by her former laboratory deputy, Svetlana Sergeyevna Marennikova.  Dr. Donald A. Henderson, a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a leader of the smallpox eradication campaign, said Maltseva was "hard-working" and traveled extensively on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) during the eradication campaign.  WHO records indicate she traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan as part of her duties with the program. The institute where Maltseva worked housed a national collection of 120 strains of smallpox, and scientists and American officials speculate that Iraq attempted to purchase the Aralsk strain, which may be resistant to vaccines.  The possibility that Iraq was successful in obtaining this strain is one of the factors that has complicated President Bush's decision about how many Americans should be vaccinated against smallpox.  Along with that, Russian officials have continually refused to share smallpox and other lethal germ strains for study by U.S. scientists or to respond to inquiries about the whereabouts of those strains.

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