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Cablegate: Closely Watched Birds: Russia's Response to Avian And

VZCZCXRO1746
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1077/01 1091200
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 181200Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7658
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC 5234
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA 0165
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 0814
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4373
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 1539
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH 0441
RUEHUM/AMEMBASSY ULAANBAATAR 0293
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RHEFAFM/DIRAFMIC FT DETRICK MD//MA-1//
RHMFIUU/DTRA ALEX WASHINGTON DC//CT//
RHEFSNG/HMSNG WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 001077

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDA FAS FOR OSTA/MACKE, WRIGHT, ROSENBLUM;
- OCRA/FLEMINGS; OA/PATRICK CLERKIN
HHS FOR COURY, STEIGER
FAS PASS FSIS AND APHIS
SECDEF FOR OSD
STATE FOR G/AIAG, EB/TPP/ATP, EB/TPP/BTA, OES/STC
VIENNA PASS APHIS/TANAKA, BRUSSELS PASS
- APHIS/FERNANDEZ
USDOC 3150/DAVID FULTON/MOLLY COSTA/ITA/CS/OIO/EUR
GENEVA PASS HEALTH ATTACHE
DEPARTMENT PASS USAID FOR GH/RCS/EE/ROSENBERG
CDC ATLANTA PASS SEPRL FOR DAVID SUAREZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFLU EAGR TBIO PGOV RS
SUBJECT: CLOSELY WATCHED BIRDS: RUSSIA'S RESPONSE TO AVIAN AND
PANDEMIC INFLUENZA

REFS: A. Moscow 1000
B. Vladivostok 39
C. 07 Moscow 5929
D. 07 Moscow 1677
E. 06 Moscow 10955
F. 07 Moscow 1318
G. 07 Moscow 3379

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Russia has been effective in stamping out nearly
150 outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza (AI) among
poultry over the last three years through a combination of strict
quarantines and mass cullings in outbreak areas, and large-scale
vaccinations of commercial and backyard bird flocks throughout the
country. Russia has an effective animal and human disease
surveillance network and the laboratory capacity to quickly identify
highly pathogenic flu strains following suspected AI outbreaks. At
the same time, Russia has not yet completed a national pandemic
preparedness plan and has struggled to provide the public with
consistent information during outbreaks. A lack of coordination and
rivalries among the country's leading animal and human disease
institutes and laboratories could hinder the response to a pandemic,
and Russia has been reluctant to share AI virus samples with
international health institutes. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Russia's Scorched Earth Policy Contains Outbreaks
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) Despite lying along several avian migratory flyways through
Eastern Europe and Asia, Russia has effectively stamped out nearly
150 outbreaks of avian influenza (AI) among domestic poultry over
the last three years. (Sitreps on these outbreaks are posted on the
embassy's classified website: www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/moscow/)
Russia has adopted a "scorched earth" policy of mass culling in
outbreak areas. In some cases, entire bird populations on farms
have been destroyed, rather than individual populations in single
chicken houses, in order to contain infections and punish commercial
farmers who, in the authorities' view, failed to meet minimum
biosafety standards (Ref C).

3. (U) Russia has vaccinated commercial and backyard flocks against
AI, inoculating millions of birds in both 2006 and 2007. During the
recent outbreak in the Russian Far East (Refs A, B), local law
enforcement officials quickly established a quarantine around the
affected village while the government veterinary service destroyed
dozens of birds and vaccinated thousands of domestic poultry in the
area. As an additional precaution, the farmer, whose chickens were
originally infected, was placed in a local hospital for several days
of observation, where he has received antiviral medicine, although
he so far has no flu symptoms (Ref B).

4. (SBU) Over the last three years, the federal government has paid
for vaccine production to support mass bird inoculation campaigns at
commercial farms, but it is less clear who will pay for the
continuing expenses of large-scale vaccinations. While the federal
government is willing to continue paying for vaccine production,
there is no federal budget to pay for the continuing costs of mass
inoculations, leaving regional or local governments to bear those

MOSCOW 00001077 002 OF 004


costs in the future. Agricultural contacts report that some poultry
farms are vaccinating their commercial flocks with expired vaccines
produced last year, which raises obvious questions about how
effective these vaccination campaigns will be in protecting
commercial flocks from future infections.

5. (SBU) Russia has a strong veterinary surveillance system for
highly pathogenic AI (HPAI), but unlike the United States, there is
no surveillance of low pathogenic AI (LPAI) strains. This systemic
flaw leaves Russia unable to identify reservoirs of LPAI among birds
that could potentially mutate into HPAI.

6. (SBU) Despite the success at stamping out avian outbreaks, the
government's public statements have sometimes been uncoordinated.
Local, regional and federal officials, as well as leading human
health and veterinary officials, have sometimes provided conflicting
or irresponsible statements to the press. In some cases, federal
health officials have announced an AI outbreak before lab results
confirmed the presence of AI. Regional officials and certain
elected federal officials have periodically made irresponsible
statements on the origin of outbreaks and sought to attribute them
to trade-related sabotage by foreign governments (Ref D).

---------------------
Pandemic Preparedness
---------------------

7. (SBU) In 2007, the GOR prepared and submitted to the WHO a draft
pandemic preparedness plan, but the document still needs substantial
reworking. Several regions affected by AI have drafted pandemic
preparedness plans and submitted them to the federal government for
review, but the GOR has not yet approved these plans or attempted to
coordinate and make them consistent with the draft federal
preparedness plan. Russia has worked steadily to strengthen AI
surveillance and testing capacity. In 2006, Russia approved an
action plan to spend nearly $49 million combating the further spread
of AI, with the Ministries of Agriculture and of Health and Social
Development receiving the lion's share of the funds to produce and
purchase vaccines and to improve laboratory capacity (Ref F).

8. (SBU) The GOR has applied to establish the "Vector" State
Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk Oblast
as a World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratory and
collaborating center for AI. (Russia already has WHO collaborating
centers for all types of human influenza virus in St. Petersburg and
Moscow, and the Federal Center for Animal Health in Vladimir is the
national reference laboratory for animal diseases, but Vector would
serve as a special WHO collaborating center for AI.) A WHO
assessment team visited Vector in April 2007 and concluded that the
laboratory could eventually become a WHO collaborating center for AI
research, but that this process could take as long as two years (Ref
G).

9. (SBU) Over the last two years, Russia has established itself as
the leader within the CIS on AI and pandemic preparedness, executing
bilateral influenza collaboration agreements with many of the other
CIS countries, hosting numerous regional influenza conferences, and
sponsoring training sessions for CIS flu and laboratory experts
(Refs F, G).


MOSCOW 00001077 003 OF 004


10. (SBU) AI sample sharing remains a thorny issue for Russia. The
country has accepted AI samples from both Western Europe and the
CIS, but has not shared any AI samples collected in Russia beyond
its borders. For routine human influenza cases, Russia has
historically exchanged information and provided virus samples to the
CDC and other WHO Collaborating Centers. We are also not aware of
any sharing of AI samples beyond Russia's borders through the World
Organization for Animal Health (OIE). For AI samples, in 2007,
Vector provided the CDC with DNA material and sera from humans who
had contact with sick birds during the 2005 AI outbreak in the
Novosibirsk region. Officials at Vector would like to share virus
isolates with both CDC and with the St. Jude Children's Research
Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. However, Vector's supervisory
agency, the Federal Surveillance Service for Consumer Rights
Protection and Human Well-Being, has not yet granted the lab
permission to share samples abroad, though the lab is expecting it
will receive permission. In 2006, Russia dropped its legal
objections to sharing AI samples, but we are not aware of any cases
in which AI samples have actually been shared outside of Russia
since then. Health officials maintained from 2004-2006 that Russian
law prohibited the sharing of AI samples, because they are included
in a list of dangerous pathogens that cannot be exported. The
reluctance to share samples with the outside world is probably a
legacy of the closed and secretive culture at both human and animal
research institutes, many of which worked on biological weapons
programs during the Soviet Union and remain closed facilities even
today.

11. (SBU) In September 2006, the St. Petersburg Institute of
Influenza announced that a human vaccine developed from the AI
strain that circulated in Vietnam from 2004-2005 had successfully
completed the first phase of trials (Ref E). At the Sixth
International Bird Flu Summit in Bali on March 27, 2008, Russia's
leading state-owned vaccine manufacturer, Microgen, said it had
developed two additional human AI vaccines and was prepared to
establish vaccine production in Southeast Asia, if necessary.

12. (SBU) A lack of coordination and rivalries among Russia's
leading veterinary and human influenza labs could hinder Russia's
response to AI and pandemic flu. Senior management at the Research
Institute of Influenza in St. Petersburg, Russia's leading human
influenza lab, has been irritated by the spending of lavish sums to
develop Vector's AI capacity. Vector also has not cooperated with
the Federal Center for Animal Health in Vladimir, Russia's premier
veterinary diagnostic and testing lab. Although the Vladimir center
is supposed to take the lead role in AI outbreaks among birds,
Vector has in some cases conducted preliminary testing of specimens
from birds and then not shared those samples with the Vladimir lab
(Ref G). There is no standing committee of agriculture and health
officials and specialists that could help facilitate coordination
among Russia's leading agriculture and health institutes.

13. (SBU) COMMENT: Given the budgetary grumbling over the expenses
of continued mass bird vaccinations and the lack of any evident
political will to focus on reworking Russia's draft pandemic
preparedness plan, we believe a certain amount of "bird flu fatigue"
has infected Russia's leading animal and human health officials and
policy makers. Nonetheless, we believe Russia will continue to
react quickly to AI outbreaks, given the track record of effective
responses over the last three years, and the country's evident

MOSCOW 00001077 004 OF 004


strengths in surveillance, testing, and vaccine production.

BURNS

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