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Cablegate: Ecuador Avian Flu Preparations and Demarche Response

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHQT #1005 2972235
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 232235Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9513
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 7799
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 3231
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ OCT LIMA 2860
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3865
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC

UNCLAS QUITO 001005

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KFLU EAGR ETRD SOCI TBIO EC
SUBJECT: ECUADOR AVIAN FLU PREPARATIONS AND DEMARCHE RESPONSE

REF: A. STATE 92335


1. (U) Summary: The GOE has given considerable thought to the risks
of avian flu and has programs for prevention and crisis response.
GOE representatives expressed interest in attending the Ministerial
Conference on October 25-26 in Egypt, but expressed concerns that
funding limitations will not allow them to do so. End summary.

2. (U) On October 3, Econoffs delivered reftel points regarding the
upcoming Ministerial Conference on October 25-26 to representatives
from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health, along with representatives
from the Ecuadorian Agricultural Health Service (SESA), the
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and
the poultry industry organization, CONAVE. The meeting participants
briefed Econoffs on GOE preparations for a future avian flu crisis.


GOE PREPARATIONS: PREVENTION AND RESPONSE
-----------------------------------------

3. (U) The GOE has attempted to come up with inter-agency plans for
prevention of an avian flu outbreak, as well as preparations for the
legal, health, diagnostic, and communication aspects of an outbreak
should it occur. The prevention side of GOE planning has focused on
raising industry awareness and implementing safety regulations, as
well as banning poultry-related imports from countries that have
suffered avian flu outbreaks in the past. Industry officials said
that poultry consumption in Ecuador fell by 25% after the outbreaks
in 2005, which has led them to promote aggressively awareness of the
risks.

4. (U) The GOE is attempting to implement standardized production
controls on small and medium producers, since the GOE feels that
large producers already follow appropriate sanitary practices. They
noted, however, that there is little they can do to enforce sanitary
regulations among the many "backyard producers" of poultry. The GOE
also attempts to monitor wetlands and other areas populated by
migratory birds in an attempt to identify outbreaks. They perform
bird censuses among domestic birds, and enlist the help of hunting
groups for monitoring outbreaks among wild birds. They lament an
overall lack of funding for their programs, however.

4. (U) For crisis response, the Ministry of Public Health has
laboratories, hospital rooms, and protective suits dedicated to any
potential outbreak. Ministry officials stated that they attempted
to be "epidemiologically vigilant" in monitoring flu outbreaks.
They were working with hospitals to promote readiness for a larger
crisis, but noted that most facilities lacked sufficient equipment
like respirators to be able to respond to a major pandemic.

CONFERENCE IN EGYPT
-------------------

5. (SBU) Meeting participants expressed interest in attending the
conference in Egypt, but expressed concern that funding difficulties
might prevent any GOE representatives from attending. They noted
that the attendees would probably be from the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, but added that the MFA was not well-informed about avian
flu issues. Econoff followed up with the Director General for
Multilateral Affairs at the MFA, who sent a reply on October 23rd
saying that the GOE was trying to arrange for someone from the
Ecuadorian mission in Egypt to attend the conference.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Despite the GOE's well-articulated plans for crisis
response, Econoffs have doubts about the ability of the government
to mount a coherent response to a major outbreak. The resources in
laboratories and hospitals are "dedicated" in name only, and are
used for other activities as needed. Although the representatives
at the meeting appeared fully aware of the seriousness of the avian
flu threat, it was unclear how much this has penetrated into other
elements of the GOE.

Hodges

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