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Cablegate: Burma Does Its Best to Cope with Ai Outbreak

VZCZCXRO5156
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #0228/01 0641106
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051106Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5810
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1356
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0206
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 4490
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3777
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 7302
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 4862
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 0061
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 1066
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1080
RUDKIA/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0900
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 000228

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, G/AIAG; PACOM FOR FPA; USDA FOR
FAS/PECAD, FAS/CNMP, FAS/AAD, APHIS; BANGKOK FOR
USAID:JMACARTHUR), APHIS:NCARDENAS, REO:JWALLER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID AMED PGOV PREL CASC TBIO KFLU BM
SUBJECT: BURMA DOES ITS BEST TO COPE WITH AI OUTBREAK

REF: A. RANGOON 0221
B. RANGOON 0212

RANGOON 00000228 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Burmese authorities reported the death from
Avian Influenza of sixteen chickens and five ducks in three
additional townships of Rangoon from February 28 through
March 2, in addition to those at the initial site (ref B).
After tests for AI were positive at the three new sites,
officials culled the remaining poultry and disinfected the
areas. Livestock and residents within a one-kilometer radius
of each outbreak remain under surveillance. The source of AI
infection in Rangoon has not been determined. On March 4,
WHO supported a training course for health workers at Waibagi
hospital, the designated infectious diseases facility in
Rangoon. WHO representatives said the GOB response to the
current outbreak was systematic and organized, showing marked
improvement over its performance at the first outbreak in
March 2006, although problem areas remain. End summary.

Rapid Response to New Cases
---------------------------
2. (SBU) The GOB announced on March 3 that three chickens and
five ducks in Thingangyun Township and two chickens in Insein
Township found dead on February 28 had tested positive for AI
with Rapid Test Kits. Since these cases were at small
residential farms, authorities did not verify with PCR
testing, but immediately culled all remaining poultry and
disinfected the farms. On March 2, eleven dead chickens were
found at a commercial farm in Hlaing Thaya Township. Rapid
Test Kits, then PCR testing confirmed HPAI, and again,
authorities culled all remaining poultry and disinfected the
farm. Contacts told us that high-level officials personally
oversaw the burning and disinfecting operations.

3. (SBU) On March 5, WHO Country Representative Adik Wibowo
told Charge that Burmese government officials had dealt with
the current outbreak in a systematic, organized way. The
Minister, Deputy Minister, and Director General of Health
traveled to Rangoon from Nay Pyi Taw to handle the response.
Also, at the Minister of Health's request, WHO supported a
training drill for health workers at Waibagi Hospital, which
is the designated facility for infectious diseases in
Rangoon. The twelve members from the family whose farm
experienced the initial outbreak remain under observation at
Waibagi, although none show symptoms at this point.

4. (U) Announcements have appeared daily in government media
describing the numbers of Rangoon bird deaths (including
crows, pigeons, sparrows and quail) reported and
investigated. All birds other than ducks or chickens have
tested negative for AI, according to the reports. These
announcements also cautioned pet owners to keep their pets
from eating dead birds; advised breeders on effective
disinfectant solutions; warned farmers to keep wild birds and
crows away from poultry farms; recommended all citizens to
bury dead crows; and ordered farm owners to maintain stronger
biosecurity measures.

Problem Areas
-------------
5. (SBU) While the government's quick and thorough response
to the outbreak has received praise from the international
community, problem areas remain. These include:

-- Inadequate biosafety at markets: On March 3 and 4, embassy
employees witnessed sellers butchering and dressing poultry
in Rangoon markets in unsanitary conditions, without proper
facilities or practices to clean and disinfect the seller's

RANGOON 00000228 002.2 OF 002


area, clothing, and skin. No posters or pamphlets with
guidance on proper procedures to prevent AI transmission were
evident in any markets. We estimate Rangoon has 25-30
markets, many of which continue to sell poultry.

-- Uninformed Response: A contact informed us that the Yangon
City Development Council turned off the water supply to parts
of Mayangone Township, site of the initial outbreak, in an
attempt to prevent the spread of AI through water seepage and
flow from or near the affected farm. WHO Country
Representative Adik Wibowo promised to follow up with GOB
authorities after we informed her of this development, to
urge them to turn the water back on as soon as possible to
allow area residents to maintain a higher standard of
hygiene.

-- Information Campaign Slow to Rural Areas: The bulk of
educational posters and pamphlets designed by UNICEF and
funded by the Japanese Trust Fund and other donors have only
recently been approved and passed to the government for wide
distribution. Wibowo expressed concern that, on her recent
trip to Sagaing Division, she did not see any AI
informational materials on display. In Rangoon, posters are
visible in some restaurants, but not at markets and other
places where live and freshly-killed poultry is handled.
Local sources tell us that many Burmese continue to believe
that backyard poultry are immune from AI. An aggressive
public education campaign is needed to change these strongly
held beliefs and increase public awareness of proper
precautions.

Assistance
----------
6. (U) At the request of the Livestock Breeding and
Veterinary Department, USAID Bangkok will send a specialist
to advise on lab procedures on March 6 and on human health
issues later this week. LBVD officials have promised
assistance to expedite their visas and travel. Director
Generals from both LBVD and the Department of Health have
requested additional PPEs, as they are using their current
supply quickly for response and monitoring teams. We
coordinated with USAID Bangkok to forward the request to
Washington. We will continue to consult closely with WHO,
FAO and LBVD officials monitoring the current situation.
VILLAROSA

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