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Cablegate: Israeli Ngo Proposing to Track Infected Migratory

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

B. TEL AVIV 5279

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Society for the Protection of Nature in
Israel is making a proposal to the GOI Ministries of
Agriculture and Health to set up a surveillance system
focused on migratory water fowl which are more likely than
over migratory birds to be carriers of the H5N1 strain of
avian influenza. If the proposal garners sufficient funding,
it may provide useful information for other countries, by
indicating the origin and destination of infected birds. MOH
is requesting funding to procure enough Tamiflu to treat one
million people. Israeli and Jordanian veterinary officials
have met to coordinate efforts on avian influenza. End

Bird Experts Put Forth a Surveillance Proposal
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (U) Dr. Gidon Perlman, an Israeli expert on avian
influenza, told ESTH Officer October 20 that the Society for
the Protection of Nature in Israel is making a proposal to
MOA and MOH to establish four new monitoring and surveillance
sites located at the Hula Valley Reserve, Beit Shemesh and
two coastal areas to track and examine migratory birds,
particularly water fowl which are more likely to carry avian
influenza. Migratory birds overfly Israel from currently
affected regions, including the Balkans, Turkey, Russia, and
Kazakhstan. All of the proposed tracking sites are areas
where migratory birds from Europe and Asia rest as they make
their way to Africa. The immediate benefit of establishing
these monitoring and surveillance sites is to offer the MOA a
means to limit the exposure of domestic fowl from birds
carrying the deadly H5N1 strain. Perlman said that with
sufficient funding the proposed surveillance system could
provide useful information for other countries, by indicating
the origin and destination of infected birds. Perlman
stressed that culling wild bird populations was a highly
ineffective way to deal with avian influenza, but stated that
better information on migratory populations could help
protect domestic birds. The consensus among health and
agricultural officials, as well as the scientific community,
is that avian influenza will make its way to Israel and the
region in the immediate future due to the half billion
migratory birds passing over Israel annually.

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MOH Requests 200 million NIS to purchase more Tamiflu
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (U) The Ministry of Health is working with the Ministry of
Agriculture to monitor the avian influenza situation in
Israel, especially as hundreds of millions of migratory birds
are passing through the region from Europe and Asia to spend
the winter in Africa. Through press briefings and
interviews, the MOH is taking steps to allay public concerns
about a potential outbreak of bird flu in the region by
promoting public awareness of measures that are being
undertaken to prevent the spread of the disease. To date,
the MOH has stockpiled a preliminary supply of Tamiflu
sufficient to treat 400,000 people. According to an
interview given by Professor Manfred Green, Director of the
Health Ministry's Israel Center for Disease Control, to the
"Jerusalem Post" on October 19, one of the immediate goals of
the MOH is to procure enough doses of Tamiflu to treat one
million people. The Health Ministry plans to ask the Finance
Ministry for an additional 200 million NIS (approximately USD
45 million) to purchase enough doses of Tamiflu to reach this
goal. Green also noted that all four Israeli public health
funds have an adequate supply of regular flu vaccine and that
health fund members are now receiving postcards to remind
them of the availability of the regular vaccine. The regular
flu vaccine is free to high-risk groups.

Israeli and Jordanian Veterinary Services Meet
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) Top officials from the Israeli and Jordanian
veterinary services met October 20 at the Allenby Bridge to
discuss how to coordinate their efforts in dealing with
potential cases of avian influenza. Foreign Minister Silvan
Shalom was quoted in a "Haaretz" article October 20 as saying
that Israel and Jordan were trying to forge plans to wage a
joint effort against the disease, since experts believe that
the disease is likely to spread to the Middle East in the
near future. The two countries' veterinary services routinely
work with each other in combating various other diseases that
affect cattle and birds. The October 20 meeting resulted in
both parties agreeing to coordinate monitoring and
surveillance of suspect birds. Jordanian veterinarians will
have access to an Israeli laboratory in Beit Dagan. There
will be another meeting in three weeks to evaluate the
situation. The director of the Israeli Veterinary Service
stated that the four laboratory testing facilities in Israel
are sufficient to meet both countries' testing requirements.

Israel's Poultry Industry

5. (U) In Israel, the poultry industry accounts for 18
percent of the agricultural sector and 40 percent of the
livestock industry. The industry yields approximately 340,000
tons of meat and 1.6 billion eggs per year. Although many
chicken coops that house chickens for meat production are
hermetically sealed, many coops that house chickens for egg
production are not. Concerns center on the possibility that
birds whose migratory paths pass through Israel may contract
the disease in an affected country, and then somehow come in
contact with domestic fowl in Israel. If a local outbreak of
the disease occurs, the Agricultural Ministry will order the
culling of birds in the vicinity of the outbreak to prevent
further spread of the disease. What is unclear at the
moment, though, is the economic impact on the poultry
industry that might result due to reports of an isolated case
of the disease.

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