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Cablegate: Bird Flu Spreads to New Areas in Tripura

VZCZCXRO9970
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHRN
DE RUEHCI #0136 1191700
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281700Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL KOLKATA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1981
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0065
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 2419
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1856
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0863
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 0858
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 0577
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON PRIORITY 0427
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0152
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE USD FAS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME PRIORITY 0030
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0105

UNCLAS KOLKATA 000136

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT PLS PASS APHIS, HHS AND CDC
ROME FOR FAO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFLU TBIO EAGR SENV AMED CASC IN BG
SUBJECT: BIRD FLU SPREADS TO NEW AREAS IN TRIPURA

REF: A) KOLKATA 128, B) KOLKATA 111

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The H5N1 virus has spread to areas another
village in Tripura's two AI-affected districts. On the basis of
outbreak location maps, Tripura officials and post contacts
suggest -- off-the-record -- that the infection arrived from
neighboring Bangladesh. The state government is working to
contain the infection through culling, compensation and
sanitization. Tripura's Principal Secretary in the Animal
Resources Development (ARD) Department favors outsourcing of
culling operations so that his government can focus on community
awareness building and rehabilitation activities for poultry
owners who have lost their birds. END COMMENT.

2. (U) Avian influenza has spread to new areas in Tripura. On
April 19, samples from Mohanpur village in West Tripura district
tested positive for H5N1 (Reftel A). The village is located
near the India-Bangladesh international border, about 20 miles
Northwest of state capital Agartala. On April 24, Rapid
Response Teams (RRT) from Tripura's ARD department culled 4,200
poultry in the area. By April 29, ARD says they will have
culled about 60,000 birds.

3. (U) In addition to Mohanpur, samples sent to Bhopal from
Nadilagh village, also in W. Tripura district, tested positive
for H5N1. Tripura ARD Principal Secretary Dr. U Venkateshwarlu
told Post that culling began on April 26. On April 25, Tripura
ARD convened a meeting to estimate the number of birds to be
culled at Nadilagh and adjoining areas. These villages are
located about 10 miles Southwest of Agartala, close to the
India-Bangladesh border. The UN Food and Agricultural
Organization (FAO) has sent an expert to Tripura to assess the
outbreak.

4. (SBU) Despite a quick response after the first outbreak in
three villages (Kamalpur, Malaya and Tilagang) in the North
Tripura district on April 7 (reftel b), the H5N1 virus seems to
be spreading in Tripura. Venkateshwarlu admitted that close
cultural and economic ties between people in India and
Bangladesh were making it difficult to restrict cross-border
movement of people and poultry. He said in all the locations,
the virus was detected in samples collected during routine
surveillance efforts. In Kamalpur village (N. Tripura district),
only one set of samples out of seven tested at the national lab
tested positive. In Nadilagh village (W. Tripura district) also,
only one set out of eight sets tested positive. "As we know the
locations with negative results, we have an idea of how the
virus is spreading. So far it has been a sporadic outbreak, with
H5N1-positive locations separated by large tracts of
H5N1-negative poultry population," said Venkateshwarlu.

5. (U) Venkateshwarlu said his government had sufficient
resources and hardware to contain the outbreak. But the state
government has requested an increase in financial and hardware
assistance from the GOI. Venkateshwarlu believes the state
government should outsource the culling work so that its own
resources can be deployed in post-culling rehabilitation and
development activities. With most of Tripura's poultry coming
from backyard farms, mechanical culling will not be efficient,
he added. Tripura has so far reported no human infection.
Observation units have been set up in village hospitals. An
isolation ward with ventilators and medicines has been set up at
Agartala's G.B. Pant Hospital.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: Off-the-record, Post contacts blame Bangladesh
the H5N1 virus entering into Tripura through the 550 mile porous
border. Kamalpur is the Northern-most point among Tripura's
three H5N1 hot spots. Because the three locations are separated
by H5N1-negative areas, they argue, the only way the virus could
have appeared in Tripura was by crossing the border from
infected areas in Bangladesh. Mohanpur and Nadilagh are located
along economic corridors that see a busy back and forth of
people and goods, legally and illegally. Because it is
difficult to impose an effective ban on poultry movement across
the border, Tripura may see more areas affected by H5N1
outbreaks, and the finger-pointing will likely continue.

JARDINE

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