Cablegate: Senegal - Relatively Well-Prepared for Avian/Pandemic

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1. SUMMARY: Senegal appears relatively well-prepared to cope with
an outbreak of Avian and/or Pandemic Influenza (AIPI). The
Government of Senegal has an active AI working group and has hosted
a number of AIPI conferences and exercises. The USG has also hosted
several regional seminars on AIPI in Dakar. Surveillance for AI in
the domestic and wild bird populations is active and ongoing, and
local laboratory and medical facilities are the best in the region.
More can be done to increase the capabilities of other West African
countries to prepare for and deal with AIPI, specifically, offering
workshops in English and Portuguese. Workshops build capacity, pay
diplomatic dividends, and establish the relationships that will
allow us to offer effective assistance when AI appears. END

2. Background: Avian influenza appears to have largely spared West
Africa thus far, with cases of AI in poultry confirmed in Cote
d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. Despite
concern about the West Africa's position along migratory bird
routes, no cases in wild bird populations have been reported. To
date, only one human death has been attributed to AI so far, in
Nigeria in January 2007.

3. The Government of Senegal is not relying on continuing good
fortune, however, and has been admirably proactive in preparing for
an AIPI outbreak. There is a National Committee to Prevent and
Fight AI (CONAGA), which includes representatives from the Prime
Minister's Office and the Ministries of Livestock, Health,
Environment and Protection of Nature, Interior, Armed Forces,
Communications, and Commerce.

4. CONAGA conducted an AI field response simulation exercise
November 4 through 8, 2006, in Somone, Senegal, attended by
participants from 18 West Africa countries. CONAGA also hosted a
three-day workshop on AI prevention, March 19-21, in Dakar. More
than 60 participants from the scientific, NGO, professional, and
public sectors participated. In addition, CONAGA is performing
active AI surveillance and has collected samples from chicken,
domestic ducks, swine, horses and wild birds (serum, feces, tracheal
swabs) from almost 500 animals since December 2006 in the St. Louis,
Ziguinchor, and Fatick regions. A sick bird from Dakar was also
tested in February. All samples have been tested negative to HPAI
(AGID and PCR). In March, CONAGA will collect samples in other
regions. A Peace Corps volunteer working in the bird sanctuary in
Djoudj (near St. Louis in northern Senegal) has not reported any
cases of ill or dying birds.

5. The Institut Pasteur in Dakar can test for the H5N1 virus,
allowing for quick diagnosis if/when H5N1 appears in Senegal. The
medical care in Dakar is the best in the region.

6. The National veterinary laboratory (LNERV-ISRA) can test for
H5N1 virus allowing for quick diagnosis when H5N1 appears in the
poultry population. The laboratory has a good cooperative
relationship with FAO, which is using the laboratory as a regional
training center.

7. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
sponsored a workshop on International Avian Influenza Epidemiology
for 27 senior veterinary epidemiologists from the veterinary
services of 21 countries in western and central Africa in Dakar,
March 5-9. This seminar provided knowledge and strategies for
participant nations to improve surveillance and diagnostic capacity
for AI and other animal diseases of economic importance. The APHIS
epidemiologists not only conducted needed training but also worked
with individual country epidemiologists to review and refine the
design of their country's AI surveillance activities. The
International AI Epidemiology workshop is one of the many technical
activities USDA-APHIS has sponsored for specialists from African
veterinary services; this was the second in a series of three
USDA-APHIS seminars in Europe/Africa/Middle East to discuss the
design and implementation of epidemiological surveillance programs.

8. USDA has been actively involved with capacity building programs
that include AI laboratory diagnostician's training, trans-boundary
animal disease diagnosis as well as supplying reagents for the
laboratory. The USG will also supply a real time rt-PCR,
sophisticated equipment that will further increase diagnostic

9. The Public Affairs Section, in conjunction with Voice of
America's Office of Development and International Media Training

DAKAR 00000682 002 OF 002

Team, hosted a two-day informational workshop in Dakar on avian
influenza issues for Francophone West African journalists March
14-15. VOA trainers and scientific experts discussed AI basics with
an emphasis on generating informed and accurate news coverage on the
topic, especially if/when there is an H5N1 outbreak. Twenty-one
participants attended, representing Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon,
Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Cote d'Ivoire,
Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal
(Dakar and Saint-Louis) and Togo. Ambassador Janice Jacobs, who
opened the workshop with an overview of USG support for global
efforts in countering the spread of AIPI, and APHIS gave a
presentation to the group.

10. Workshop participants agreed to establish an African
journalists' network to share information on AI issues. Within
three days the event generated more than two dozen article
placements in Senegalese media, including articles on the March 14
USDA-FAO agreement on coordinating technical assistance in response
to AIPI.

11. The Center for Disease Control's (CDC's) Nairobi office
conducted AI Rapid Response Training in Dakar March 5-8. Forty-one
participants from eight Francophone African countries participated,
including clinicians, medical epidemiologists, veterinarians,
laboratory technicians, and communications specialists. It was a
train-the-trainer exercise focusing on organizing a multi-sector
response to an AI outbreak in poultry and/or humans. Participants
came from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Rwanda and Senegal.

12. Other mission offices have also been deeply involved in
preparing for AI. USAID's Economic Growth Office funded AI posters
and leaflets, which CONAGA has distributed throughout the country.
In conjunction with Catholic Relief Services, USAID has produced a
television public-service announcement to educate the general
population about AI. This spot began airing the week of March 5; it
includes tips for prevention and discusses how public alerts and
quarantine would be used to control an outbreak. The Embassy's
Office of Defense Cooperation has requested from the U.S. European
Command (EUCOM) 200 sets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to
be distributed to Senegalese military personnel who would be among
the first responders in the event of an outbreak.

13. The Consular Section regularly includes AI information in its
monthly e-mail newsletter to American citizens, including general AI
information, safe food handling tips, shelter-in-place procedures,
and links to the CDC and websites. We also
forwarded Nigeria's warden message announcing the first AI human
death in Africa. AI was a primary focus of the Town Hall meeting on
January 25 in Dakar that was attended by approximately 200 American
citizens and a similar meeting in Bissau on March 22 that brought
together 25 Americans. The section also distributed AI posters to
consular wardens.

14. Although the Western Coast of Africa has dodged AI so far, it
is likely that AI will eventually appear in the region. The World
Health Organization mandates that AI cases in humans be reported to
its regional office in Brazzaville. The World Animal Health
Organization (OIE) mandates that notifiable AI in birds be reported
to the international headquarters in Paris, France. With only a
handful of medical epidemiologists to cover all of Sub-Saharan
Africa, however, it is likely that the USG will first learn of AI
cases directly from local and regional officials. It is crucial
that posts in the region cultivate and maintain excellent
relationships with local human and animal health officials.

15. Embassy Dakar urges that AIPI training be expanded and offered
in Portuguese and English. Lusophone African countries including
Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau could all participate in a single
workshop. Anglophone workshops conducted in West Africa would reach
West African officials and institutions who were unable to attend
sessions in East Africa, such as the seminar CDC conducted for
Anglophone East African countries in September 2007. AIPI training
such as the APHIS, CDC, and VOA workshops pay valuable public
diplomacy dividends in addition to sharing up-to-date technical and
strategic knowledge. Perhaps more important, such workshops
cultivate USG and post relationships with local officials, making it
more likely that the USG will receive early notice of AI cases,
allowing us to offer assistance to help stop AI outbreaks before
they become widespread.


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