The United States permitted a representative from Iraq’s ministry of health to visit the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and take back to Baghdad materials that included the now-infamous West Nile virus.
In June of 1995, Dr. David Satcher -- then the head of the CDC and soon to become Surgeon General -- wrote Senator Don Riegle, acknowledging that Dr. Mohammed Mahmud spent three months training in a CDC laboratory and was allowed to leave the country with various materials. Most of the materials, said Satcher, were agents for detecting evidence of infections associated with mosquito-borne viruses.
With the current outbreak of the West Nile virus across the United States, many have speculated that Iraq has been testing our abilities to deal with a biological attack. Some have even gone as far as suggesting that the source of the outbreak, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, may be Iraq.
The Satcher letter to then-Senator Riegle will only add to that speculation. It deserves to be promptly investigated by Congress.