Cablegate: Vietnam Requests Avian Influenza (Ai) Assistance

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Vietnam Requests Avian Influenza (AI) Assistance

1. This cable contains an action request. Please see
Paragraph 14.

2. Summary: The Government of Vietnam (GVN) has requested
avian influenza training assistance from HHS/CDC and
USDA/APHIS to address laboratory and surveillance issues.
The GVN will be working with the World Bank, WHO, FAO, and
donor organizations to enhance regional labs and address
other aspects, such as re-stocking and farmer compensation,
of the avian influenza outbreak. As of early March, the GVN
feels the avian influenza outbreak is over. End Summary.

3. Embassy Health Attache, Dr. Marie Haring Sweeney
(HHS/Hanoi, email: and Agricultural
Attache, Henry Schmick (USDA/FAS, email: had a brief meeting on March 4 with
Dr. Bui Quang Anh, the Director of Vietnam's Department of
Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
(MARD/DAH), and Dr. Tran Ngoc Thang (MARD/DAH/International
Cooperation Division).

4. The GVN officials requested technical assistance from
HHS/CDC and USDA/APHIS in conducting avian influenza (AI)-
related training courses in two separate areas: (a) lab
skills for detecting AI and (b) practical surveillance
methods. They would like to hold training courses in both
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City -- as soon as possible. Dr. Thang
will be the key liaison contact, and he will send the
Mission a letter with more details on Monday, March 8.

Meeting Notes

5. The meeting opened with Dr. Anh thanking HHS for
responding to their initial request by sending two CDC lab
scientists (Drs. Maines and Tumpey) who came to Hanoi at the
start of the AI outbreak to work with DAH's National Center
for Veterinary Diagnosis. He noted the CDC assistance had
been key in helping their labs learn how to test for AI.

6. Dr. Anh said there had been no new AI outbreaks since
February 26, all culling had been completed, and he felt the
outbreak was over. However, he also observed that AI could
return at any time. Given that concern, MARD/DAH felt the
most pressing need was to strengthen the capacity of the
labs to diagnose AI, and to set-up a robust AI surveillance

7. At present, Dr. Anh said there were three labs able to
test for AI. (Note: We only discussed animal sample testing
capacity. End Note.) The labs are MARD/DAH's National Center
for Veterinary Diagnosis, MARD's National Institute of
Veterinary Research, both in Hanoi, and MARD/DAH's Regional
Animal Health Center in Ho Chi Minh City.

8. However, to adequately cover the country and carry out
all the tests needed to implement a robust countrywide
surveillance system, MARD felt that 5 or 6 of the existing
provincial animal health labs should be equipped and trained
to test for AI. They are targeting the labs in: (1) Can Tho,
(2) Da Nang, (3) Vinh, (4) Hai Phong, (5) Hanoi, and perhaps
(6) Nha Trang.

9. MARD has been discussing this need to enhance these labs
with the World Bank and FAO. They noted that roughly $5
million (of a planned $20 million World Bank AI project) had
been allocated to lab and surveillance issues. (Note: Post
will confirm that information with World Bank and FAO
representatives. End Note.)

10. On the surveillance side, they mentioned needing help to
train Provincial officials on practical issues, such as: how
to detect AI, how to cull, how to disinfect chicken houses
and local markets, how to set-up market-level surveillance
systems, and related epidemiological topics.

11. In the long run, Dr. Anh indicated that Vietnam would
like to set-up AI free zones. They would also welcome
technical assistance on that topic, since it relates to
establishing surveillance zones and techniques. (Comment:
Based on DAH's slow progress in setting up specific pathogen-
free zones or disease-control zones against Foot and Mouth
Disease and various swine diseases to boost their pork
exports, this is likely to be a major challenge. End

12. Coordination: WHO (on the human health side) and FAO
(animal health issues) are coordinating donor (World Bank,
ADB, and a host of country donor and NGO) assistance efforts
with the Vietnamese government. Post will work with WHO and
FAO, as well as MARD/DAH, to make sure HHS/CDC and
USDA/APHIS activities are similarly coordinated.

13. Comment: The Department of Animal Health has lagged
behind other sections of the Ministry of Agriculture in
preparing for WTO accession, expanding export markets and
embracing international trade. Its Director, Dr. Anh, looked
completely exhausted during our conversation with him. AI
surveillance will be a challenge given Vietnam's geography:
63 provinces and 3 large incorporated cities along a long
coast in a land area the size of Virginia, North and South
Carolina, as well as bordering many countries with AI
problems. End Comment.

Action Request

14. Mission would appreciate the Department urging HHS and
USDA to consider favorably the GVN request for technical
training assistance. This is an opportunity to help the
people of Vietnam address a humanitarian and economic


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