Cablegate: Vietnam: Avian Influenza Weekly Report for November

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
17, 2005

REF: Hanoi 3009 and previous

1. (U) Summary. While local press reported several
possible human AI cases this week, there have been no
confirmed cases and no AI deaths since the October 29 death
reported in Reftel. The GVN's Pasteur Institute of Ho Chi
Minh City released information suggesting possible mutation
of the H5N1 virus, but these reports have not been
confirmed. The Government of Vietnam (GVN) aggressively
stepped up its AI prevention program this week on a number
of fronts. Hanoi officials ordered the killing of all inner-
city fowl and a thorough inspection campaign beginning Nov.
17. Sale and transport of chicken (and possibly eggs) in
Hanoi appears to also been banned. Hanoi, HCMC, Hue and
Haiphong have banned family and small scale poultry raising.
End Summary

No New Confirmed AI Human Fatalities

2. (U) There have been no confirmed AI human fatalities
since the October 29 death of a Hanoi man reported in
Reftel. Press articles this week reported circumstances of
seven possible AI human cases located in Hanoi, Haiphong,
Bac Giang Province, and Quang Binh Province. However, with
the onset of the flu season, "suspected" AI cases reported
in the press should be reviewed with suspicion. None of the
cases reported in the media this week have yet been
confirmed as AI-related. Two cases were later found to be
AI negative by subsequent lab tests. The previous suspect
case reported in Reftel, para 4 also tested negative for AI
and is recovering.

Infections in Poultry Spread

3. (U) Bird flu in poultry was reported in four additional
provinces this week, raising the total number of AI-affected
cities and provinces in the current wave to 14. These
include two provinces in the Mekong Delta in the south: Bac
Lieu and Dong Thap; eight northern cities and provinces:
Hanoi, Haiphong, Bac Giang, Hai Duong, Hung Yen, Ninh Binh,
Vinh Phuc and Bac Ninh; and three central provinces: Thanh
Hoa, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai. The total number of epidemic-
affected communes rose to 85.

4. (U) Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao
Duc Phat, warned of "belated discovery and surveillance of
bird flu outbreaks in localities, as well as the people's
negligence over the disease" at an AI meeting held in Hanoi
on November 14. Prime Minister Phan Van Khai called for
better dissemination of information on AI by the media,
comprehensive poultry vaccination and tight surveillance at
the village level. The National Steering Board for Bird Flu
Control this week established nine delegations to inspect
and monitor implementation of GVN instructions on AI
prevention and control.

Testing on Possible H5N1 Virus Mutation

5. (SBU) The Vietnamese press reported that the Pasteur
Institute of Ho Chi Minh City released information
suggesting possible mutations in the H5N1 virus. Cao Bao
Van, Director of the Molecular Biology Department of the
Institute said that an analysis of 24 samples from a mix of
animal specimens and human H5N1 cases from 2004 and early
2005 indicate some mutations and genetic drift. However,
according to WHO Vietnam staff, the full data set has not
been released to allow for an assessment as to whether
findings are new or of concern. The Health Attache and
ConGen HCMC are closely following this issue.

Suspension of Home Grown Poultry in Cities

6. (U) The GVN dramatically ramped up its already vigorous
efforts to prevent an AI outbreak. In a country long
accustomed to city dwellers raising chickens, suspension of
small-scale poultry farming has been ordered in Hanoi, HCMC,
Hue and Haiphong. The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) also
reports that Hanoi's Steering Committee for Bird Flu
Prevention will commence slaughter of all Hanoi's inner-city
fowl in combination with a thorough inspection campaign
beginning November 17. Even pet birds sold in cages have
suddenly disappeared from Hanoi's streets. Farmers in bird
flu-hit provinces have been ordered to cull fowl.

Chicken on the Menu? Eggs for Breakfast?

7. (U) Based on spot reports, Chicken is no longer to be
seen in the "wet markets" or small shops throughout Hanoi.
Vietnamese television news indicates that sale of "live"
chicken is banned. Only a few restaurants still serve
chicken. Chicken is available in some larger supermarkets,
however, if obtained through Government-approved
slaughterhouses. The GVN Ministry of Agriculture's
Resolution on Emergency Measures to Prevent Avian Influenza
dated November 4, 2005 (MOA Resolution) orders: "In cities
and towns, only slaughtered/processed poultry can be sold;
strictly ban the trade of live poultry or slaughtering of
poultry in wet markets or places that do not meet criteria
set by the Veterinary Law." The Vietnam News Agency reports
that only certified-inspected poultry should be sold.

8. (SBU) Within the last three days, eggs also suddenly
disappeared from Hanoi shops. Consular staff surveyed
stores and found that eggs are largely unavailable in the
capital and many restaurants have removed eggs from their
breakfast selections. One storekeeper confided that she was
hiding eggs in the back of her shop, because "the police are
checking." The MOA Resolution states: "Diseased or un-
inspected poultry/poultry products are not allowed to be
traded or consumed." It appears local officials in Hanoi
may be interpreting this restriction as applying to eggs.

9. (SBU) Like Hanoi, HCMC has stringently applied a ban on
raising poultry in the city, with a compliance deadline of
November 15. Press reports indicate that this has been 80
percent accomplished and is rapidly approaching 100 percent.
There is also a ban on poultry entering HCMC. The Standing
Vice Chairman of the HCMC People's Committee, who is in
personal charge of these efforts, told the Consul General
that he has made clear to the chairman of every district in
the city that they will be held personally responsible for
any AI outbreak among birds within their district.


10. (SBU) Consular staff are regularly fielding questions
from resident Americans as well as U.S. companies and NGOs
based in Vietnam about how to procure Tamiflu. On October
14, the GVN confiscated a large shipment of Tamiflu from
Roche intended for private medical and pharmaceutical
providers. Vietnamese citizens are instructed via
television and radio broadcasts not to purchase Tamiflu and
that the Government will provide it free for anyone with flu
symptoms. Pharmacies have been instructed not to sell
Tamiflu without a prescription (although prescriptions are
generally not required in Vietnam).

11. (SBU) A November 1 article on VietnamNet reported on
black market sales by pharmacies of Tamiflu at inflated
prices (approximately 63 USD per ten-pill package).
Consular staff asked about availability of Tamiflu at
several pharmacies. Some pharmacies denied holding stocks
of Tamiflu, one offered Tamiflu only after the staff stated
it was being purchased for an American company and two
others said they would sell Tamiflu for 37 and 44 USD (for a
ten-pill package), respectively.

Vietnam Readies to Commence Human Vaccine Testing
--------------------------------------------- ----

12. (SBU) Vietnam claims to be ready to pilot H5N1
vaccinations on volunteer vaccine researchers after
successful testing on monkeys, according to the Hanoi-based
Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. The Vietnam-
produced vaccine samples are now in the hands of the World
Health Organization for analysis prior to human testing.
The WHO has not approved the current vaccine for testing on
humans, however.

Poultry Inoculations Hastened

13. (U) The National Steering Committee for Bird Flu
Prevention has required all localities across the country to
step up poultry vaccination efforts in order to vaccinate 80
percent of the domestic fowls by late November 2005.
Veterinary Department officials indicate that as many as 93
million poultry have been vaccinated nationwide to date.

14. (U) Extensive coverage of U.S. financial assistance to
Vietnam in its effort to fight the spread of Avian Influenza
(AI) both in animals and humans appeared in the press.
Articles noted favorably that U.S. support to Vietnam AI
prevention efforts for this year is expected to total USD
6.5 million. Several articles detailed aspects of the
various projects that will be funded by HHS, USAID and USDA.

15. (U) On November 15, Regional Medical Technologist Cecil
Dunn from Jakarta gave a lecture to the Embassy personnel on
AI protection measures and how to prevent contracting the
flu. Embassy Med Unit is also offering classes on home care
for sick family member to staff.


© Scoop Media

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