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Cablegate: Bangladesh Ai Working Group Update

VZCZCXRO1566
RR RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #1263/01 2170703
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050703Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4682
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0077
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9218
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1774
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8040
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2567
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0862
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//ISA/NESA
RUEKDIA/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J2/J5
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J2/J4/J5

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 001263

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO AIAG/HOLLIS SUMMERS, AIAG/TONY NEWTON AND
AIAG/NICHOLAS STUDZINSKI
DELHI PLEASE PASS TO FAS/OLIVER FLAKE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KFLU ELAB PREL PGOV BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH AI WORKING GROUP UPDATE

REF: (A) KOLKATA 227, (B) DHAKA 1221, (C) DHAKA 1157, AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. With the pace of the outbreak's spread slowing
over the past month, post's Avian Influenza (AI) Working Group met
to share updated information about coordination between GOB
ministries, between USG agencies, and between USG and GOB entities.
While there has not yet been a confirmed human case of H5N1 in
Bangladesh, coordination between Bangladesh's Ministries of Health
and of Fisheries and Livestock still needs work. Human health
surveillance and diagnostic laboratory capacity are rapidly
improving, but GOB resources are strained and the majority of
improvement is coming from NGO sector such as ICDDR,B. USAID
continues to expand its in-country resources, including the hiring
or arrival in the near future of experts in epidemiology, logistics,
and communications support under the administration of a newly
created position of in-country USAID AI coordinator. Additional
information and resources are available on post's AI webpage,
http://10.208.1.12/dhkavianinfluenza.htm. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) FOUR MONTHS INTO THE H5N1 OUTBREAK. Bangladesh's first
public announcement of H5N1 in poultry was made March 22, 2007.
From then to July 25, 2007, 173,163 farms and 161,834,109 birds have
been inspected. H5N1 was confirmed on 52 farms in 17 of
Bangladesh's 64 districts, resulting in 240,169 birds culled from
the 52 infected and an additional 23 surrounding farms. No human
cases of H5N1 infection have been confirmed. The GOB has
implemented compensation plans for culled farmers (ref C), which
seems to be generally effective. Geographically, nine of the 17
infected districts share borders with India, but are on the
opposite, western, side of Bangladesh, away from the recently
reported Indian outbreak (ref A).

3. (U) HUMAN SURVEILLANCE CAPACITY. The International Centre for
Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) is an
international health research institution supported in part by the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). ICDDR,B has established
itself as a leader in human influenza surveillance in Bangladesh
through a population based study since 2004, which provides
substantial baseline data. Recently, ICDDR,B and the GOB Ministry
of Health implemented a national hospital surveillance program
focusing on identifying, documenting, and sampling patients with
severe respiratory disease. The program is currently operating in
eight hospitals, and expects to expand to 12 by the end of August,
2007. ICDDR,B is also adding substantial laboratory capacity to
analyze the samples flowing from that program. Biosafety Level 2
and 3 laboratories for human samples should become operational by
September 1, 2007 and January 1, 2008 respectively. ICDDR,B hopes
to subsequently branch out into veterinary testing; to avoid
laboratory contamination, however this will require a separate level
2 facility for the veterinary samples. ICDDR,B has also received a
CDC grant to examine the effectiveness of oseltamivir phosphate
(Tamiflu) against the spread of influenza virus in densely populated
areas such as Bangladesh.

4. (SBU) COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH. The working group discussed
a proposal from Voice of America (VOA) to fund additional reporting
on AI, and workshops held in conjunction with listener clubs in
Bangladesh. UNICEF has the lead on communication strategies, and
has been working with the GOB in presenting media products.
Additionally, USAID's global partner for communications, AED, has a
team evaluating Bangladesh currently. Therefore, the working group
suggested that the VOA proposal be coordinated with UNICEF and
USAID/AED.

5. (SBU) DOD RESOURES. USAID and post's Office of Defense
Cooperation continue to work together in developing programs for DOD
/ PACOM humanitarian assistance resources in two key areas: Personal
Protective Equipment (PPE) and laboratory capacity. USAID is
completing a logistics evaluation of the GOB's ability to mange the
receipt, storage and distribution of DOD-provided PPE if PPE were to
be ordered and delivered. Following that evaluation, USAID will be
able to ensure that DOD donated PPE would not overload the already
overburdened GOB logistics system and instead would get to where it
needs to go. USAID and DOD are also discussing
possible funding to outfit the GOB's central veterinary
investigative lab with Real-time RT-PCR, which would improve
detection of H5 prior to sending sampling to outside reference
laboratories.

DHAKA 00001263 002 OF 002

6. (SBU) USAID IMPLEMENTS ITS ACTION PLAN. USAID has begun
increasing its in-country footprint by adding experts to support GOB
efforts in areas such as epidemiology, surveillance, laboratory
operations, and training on donated equipment as set out in its
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Action Plan 2007. Staff continues
to be replenished over the summer transfer season, including Jo
Lesser who has arrived at post to take up the position vacated by
MacDonald Homer in the Economic Growth, Food and Environment
section. Also, the hiring process for the new, full-time USAID AI
coordinator for Bangladesh is now underway.

PASI

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