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Cablegate: Who: 58th World Health Assembly: U.S.-Hosted

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

1. HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency
Preparedness Stewart Simonson hosted a scientific and
technical meeting on pandemic influenza preparedness and
response at the 58th World Health Assembly on May 17, 2005.
This meeting followed up on discussions started at the
previous day's Ministerial meeting on avian influenza hosted
by HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt (septel). Mr. Simonson
co-hosted the meeting with Dr. Klaus Stohr, Director of the
World Health Organization (WHO) Global Influenza Programme
and Dr. Supachai Kunaratanapruk, Deputy Permanent Secretary,
Ministry of Public Health, Kingom of Thailand. Countries
represented at the meeting included Australia, Cambodia,
Canada, the People's Republic of China, East Timor, Italy,
Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos People's Democratic Republic,
Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Great
Britain and Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. Also attending
were representatives from the European Commission, the WHO
Headquarters, the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
(WPRO), the WHO Regional Office for Southeast Asia (SEARO),
the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the
World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

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2. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss current gaps,
challenges and opportunities in influenza surveillance and
response activities. The experts who made formal
presentations included: Dr. Nguyen Tran Hien, the Director of
the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in the
Ministry of Health of Viet Nam, who gave a presentation on
national public health and agricultural perspectives about
the avian influenza outbreak in Southeast Asia; Dr. Samuel
Jutz of the FAO, who spoke on issues in international
organization collaboration on avian influenza control; Mr.
Dick Thompson, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at
the WHO Secretariat, who presented on risk communication
before and during pandemic influenza events; and Dr. Bruce
Gellin, the Director of the National Vaccine Program Office
who spoke on international research collaboration. The rest
of the meeting was devoted to the views and considerations on
these subjects by country representatives.

3. The general consensus of the discussion was that H5N1
avian influenza represents a threat to global security and
public health, and that a pandemic influenza would have
significant negative public health, agricultural, economic
and social implications for all countries. Therefore,
greater and timely collaboration and coordination are needed,
both within countries and internationally, to control the
H5N1 outbreak in Southeast Asia and reduce the risk of the
emergence of a pandemic influenza.

4. The experts concluded the countries now affected by the
H5N1 outbreak need greater support, including
capacity-strengthening in animal and human epidemiological
surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, outbreak-control
measures, prevention of human infection and improved patient
care. Consideration of the apparent changes in H5N1 avian
influenza outbreak dynamics, including changes in human
disease in northern Viet Nam virulence (and thus longer
patient survival times that lead to a greater risk of
infection transmission between persons), and an increased
frequency of detected clusters of human cases, again,
especially in Viet Nam, should guide the process of making
investments in these areas. The experts agreed that
international laws should feature an integration of
approaches and activities by Ministries of Health and
Agriculture and that financial and technical support should
come from developed countries, international organizations
such as the WHO and FAO, regional organizations such as the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and interested
private and public organizations.

5. Meeting participants believed the H5N1 virus is now
endemic in Asia in waterfowl, especially ducks and geese, as
well as some species of migratory birds, and its presence in
wildlife reservoirs makes eradication efforts impractical.
Therefore, the experts judge that human H5N1
infection-control and prevention efforts, and efforts to
protect the poultry industries in affected countries, should
focus on interventions that protect domestic poultry from
infection and protect people from H5N1 exposure, including
implementation of stronger flock biosecurity measures,
possibly also including the judicious use of bird
vaccinations, and on distancing people from H5N1 risk through
greater public awareness in personal protection practices,
such as food safety measures. The group agreed with the
experts that research and development is needed on such human
health interventions as the use of a safe and effective H5N1
vaccine and antivirals.

6. Assistant Secretary Simonson expressed his appreciation
for the insights and comments offered by meeting
participants, and felt they were very helpful to our
collective continuing deliberations on avian influenza and
pandemic preparedness. Assistant Secretary Simonson has
cleared this cable.

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