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Cablegate: Avian Influenza Sitrep - Bangladesh

VZCZCXRO3741
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #0131/01 0291005
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291005Z JAN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6100
INFO RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0451
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0280
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0944
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 1132
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0641
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0304
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9510
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8289
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 2012
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 8384

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 000131

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDA FOR DEPUTY UNDER SECRETARY/ETERPSTRA
USDA FOR OFSO/JDEVER
USDA FOR FAS/OA/MYOST/WKMILLER
USDA FOR FAS/OCRA/CALEXANDER/JCARVER
USDA FOR FAS/OSTA/CHAMILTON
USDA FOR APHIS/MFLEMINGS/TBURLESON
SEOUL FOR APHIS/GEORGE ANDY BALL
DEPT FOR SA/INS, EB/TPP
BANGKOK FOR USAID
NEW DELHI FOR FAS

E.O. 12356: N/A
TAGS: KFLU EAGR ECON ETRD IN WTO CASC BG
SUBJECT: AVIAN INFLUENZA SITREP - BANGLADESH

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REFTEL: DHAKA 00091

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Since the beginning of January, avian influenza
outbreaks among poultry in Bangladesh have spread to an additional 9
districts, for a new total of 29 districts affected (out of 64). No
cases of human infection have been reported, and an active
surveillance system of 12 hospitals is currently operational. The
Government of Bangladesh is conducting culling and cordon operations
according to its response plan. However, the scale and pace of the
current AI outbreaks across Bangladesh during the present cold
season suggests that the AI virus may now be endemic in the country.
END SUMMARY.

Management Challenge

2. (SBU) The Government of Bangladesh's Ministry of Fisheries and
Livestock is responsible for the animal health response to the avian
influenza virus. (reftel) The official plan states that the response
to a confirmed H5 presence is culling and disinfection within a 1 KM
radius of the infected farm, and restricted movement on chickens
within a 10 KM radius of the infected farm. Since no independent
observers have been permitted to witness culling operations to date,
we are unable to confirm that past responses have been conducted
consistently according to the stated plan. Some sources report that
in light of the current outbreak, the GOB is now more intensively
conducting culling within the 1KM radius; we have anecdotal evidence
prior culling efforts were not thorough. (COMMENT: Given the high
density of people and poultry stocks in Bangladesh, the fact that
most poultry is held in small backyard farms, and the extreme
poverty of most rural dwellers, it is very likely that the smallest
- and least bio-safe -- household stocks are not consistently
culled. In addition, given that rural traffic and trade can occur
on small paths or across fields, there is no way to verify the
effectiveness of the GOB's cordoning operations. END COMMENT.)

3. (SBU) Corresponding with the current outbreak, we have noted a
notable increase in AI-related public outreach by the Government of
Bangladesh. On January 26, Mr. Manik Lal Samaddar, the newly
appointed Special Assistant to the Chief Adviser responsible for the
Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, visited the city of Rajshahi
and met with a group of AI stakeholders to emphasize the GOB's
compensation plan and to explain the overall response effort. In
Dhaka, GOB officials have met with poultry traders to conduct
outreach on AI. The Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has
conducted press outreach, including a confirmation that tests
conducted on samples from a die-off of over 150 crows in southern
Bangladesh were positive for the H5 virus.

Human Monitoring Operational

4. (SBU) Human influenza sentinel surveillance is currently
operational in 12 hospitals across Bangladesh in a collaborative
project between ICDDR,B (a research hospital supported in part by
the Centers for Disease Control) and the Government of Bangladesh.
A total of 823 samples have been tested from people presenting
symptoms of influenza from May to December 2007. The surveillance
system has confirmed 126 cases of influenza: 45 cases were influenza
A; 71 cases were influenza B. All influenza A cases were tested and
found negative for H5. Current surveillance is ongoing, and
starting next month there will be an increased volume of sampling
from patients manifesting severe respiratory symptoms.

5. (SBU) According to our CDC colleague here in Bangladesh, there
are reports that coordination between the Ministry of Fisheries and
Livestock and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has improved
considerably over the last few months. There is reportedly often
daily contact between the Bureau of Livestock Services of the

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Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Institute of
Epidemiology Disease Control and Research of the Ministry of Health
and Family Welfare. The Ministry of Health is involved in efforts
to educate and improve the safety of field workers who are involved
in culling.

FAO Supporting Additional Field Staff

6. (SBU) The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO) has responded to a request from Bangladesh's Ministry
of Fisheries and Livestock to support an additional 300
locally-hired animal health workers to augment current field
operations. FAO reported that 150 workers could be hired at the
local level by the end of January, and the remaining 150 may be
deployed in the following week. FAO said it may at some point
request financial assistance from additional donors to assist the
GOB in covering the costs of the expanded field operations.

Cross Border Issues

7. (SBU) According to our contacts, the AI outbreak in the
neighboring Indian state of West Bengal reflects a regional AI
outbreak pattern. FAO reported that the most likely explanation for
the recent increase in outbreaks is common climatologic factors:
cold weather is known to hasten the manifestation of the H5 virus,
and cold weather is the only presently verifiable linkage common to
the recent outbreaks in West Bengal and Bangladesh. In the case of
the current H5 outbreak, genetic analysis will be able to confirm
whether the same H5 strain has manifested on either side of the
India-Bangladesh border. The Government of Bangladesh is preparing
samples for testing and submission to an international clearinghouse
for virus genetic information.

8. (U) Recent newspapers reports highlight efforts by Bangladesh
border officials to stop the poultry trade between India and
Bangladesh. Other media report disinfection procedures being
conducted on vehicles crossing the border from India.

USG Activities

9. (SBU) On January 27, we delivered 10,000 USG-funded Personal
Protective Equipment (PPE) units to the GOB. These PPEs were
commercially procured by the Embassy's Office of Defense
Cooperation. Through USAID's contacts, post is monitoring the
overall response efforts within the Ministries of Fisheries and
Livestock, and Health and Family Welfare. We continue to maintain
contact with relevant counterparts at the FAO, and WHO. Currently,
a USAID-funded consultant (TDY) is on the ground working with a
large commercial poultry operation to improve biosecurity measures,
and to conduct commercially-focused AI awareness training. Within
the next few weeks, our permanent AI team will be augmented by Dr.
Zandra Andr, a USAID public-health / veterinary sciences-trained AI
expert. Based on prior TDY trips to Bangladesh, Dr. Andr already
has developed close working relationships within the GOB. Prior to
Dr. Andr's arrival, Post anticipates receiving some TDY support
from an AI expert based at Embassy Bangkok, who will assist the
Mission in providing much-needed support to the Government of
Bangladesh's Department of Livestock Services.

10. (U) A meeting of the donor sub-group on Avian Influenza and
agriculture is scheduled for February 7. USAID is working closely
with the FAO and other donors to ensure that response is unified.
More than a year ago USAID provided $850,000 to FAO Bangladesh to
enable it to respond to the AI threat and to strengthen the capacity
of the Government of Bangladesh in the areas of surveillance,
epidemiology, communication and laboratory activities. In addition,
in support of the Department of Livestock Services, USAID has funded

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training on culling and decontamination and is presently funding
outbreak management training at the national, district and local
levels.

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