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Cablegate: Spain: Avian Influenza Update

VZCZCXRO2385
RR RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #3086 3561023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221023Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1504
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 2306
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0833

UNCLAS MADRID 003086

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR G/AIAG AND EUR/WE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO AMED AMGT KFLU PREL SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN: AVIAN INFLUENZA UPDATE

REF: MADRID 2877 AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) Spanish Deputy Health Minister Fernando Puig told
the DCM December 7 that he believed that the threat of Avian
Influenza had been exaggerated and that the health systems in
place in the developed world, including in Spain, should be
able to contain and limit the impact of any future outbreak
of Bird Flu.

2. (U) On December 19, Spanish Health Minister Elena
Salgado, the coordinator of Spain's inter-ministerial Avian
Influenza "National Executive Committee," released a
communique underscoring the serious nature of the threat of
Avian Influenza and outlining recent steps taken by the
National Executive Committee to meet the threat. In the
communique, Salgado is quoted saying that "the H5N1 virus
continues to be a cause for concern for human health because
the risk of efficient human-to-human transmission remains and
could cause a pandemic." As a result, Salgado added "our
message regarding the risk assessment has not changed; it is
still impossible to predict when the H5N1 virus will acquire
the ability to be efficiently transmitted between humans, or
even whether this circumstance (i.e., efficient
human-to-human transmission) will even occur." "It could
take years, but it is fundamental that we maintain active
warning systems and that our response plans be ready for
activation at any time." Developments highlighted in
Salgado's press release included:

-- By early January 2007, Spain would have on hand the 10
million antiviral treatments that it had ordered in early
2006.

-- Spain's Avian Influenza National Preparation and Response
Plan conforms with WHO recommendations and Spain remains in
constant contact with the WHO and EU regarding Avian
Influenza issues.

-- Spain has adopted the Avian Flu-related elements of the
WHO's new International Health Rules.

-- Spain's regions, which have responsibility for
implementing health policy, have all adopted regional Avian
Influenza preparedness plans.

-- These regional plans include detailed procedures on
detection, treatment, antiviral administration, emergency
response, etc.

3. (U) Salgado also underscored that the European Center
for Disease Control had evaluated Spain's Avian Influenza
planning in October and had given Spain "very positive" marks
on both the national and regional levels. She said that the
evaluation had also noted that Spain's plans mesh well with
those of the EU and WHO.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: Salgado's remarks and the Avian
Influenza National Executive Committee's communique
demonstrate that GOS officials, in their public statements,
continue to take quite seriously the threat of Avian
Influenza. Spanish Avian Influenza planning has been
effective and does indeed, to the best of our knowledge,
conform with WHO and EU guidelines. Puig's remarks to the
DCM, however, illustrate that many senior GOS health
officials believe that the threat of Avian Influenza has been
exaggerated. This theme of "exaggerated threat" has been a
constant feature in Madrid ESTHOFF's interactions with GOS
health officials on Avian Influenza. But we have seen no
signs that these private doubts have led Spain to lower it
public Avian Influenza policy guard.
AGUIRRE

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