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Cablegate: Croatian Government Prepared for Flu Outbreak;

VZCZCXRO7486
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHVB #0668 3171438
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131438Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9650
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY

UNCLAS ZAGREB 000668

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMER KFLU PREL HR
SUBJECT: CROATIAN GOVERNMENT PREPARED FOR FLU OUTBREAK;
FOUR REPORTED DEATHS TO DATE

1. (U) Summary: The Croatian government is fully prepared
to deal with increasing cases of H1N1 and other seasonal
influenza as the outbreak spreads throughout the country.
Public health officials urged the public not to panic and to
take precautions to prevent further influenza spread.
However, local media is not helping and its coverage is
increasing Croatians' concern about infection. The GoC has
procured vaccines and is prepared to staff hospitals and
clinics with sufficient medical personnel to accommodate any
surge in cases. End Summary.

2. (U) The Ministry of Health has been issuing daily reports
with statistics involving the spread of H1N1. They report a
total of four deaths, two in Split and two in Zagreb, of
individuals from H1N1 related illness. The two Split deaths
and one of the Zagreb deaths were those of individuals
suffering from previous medical conditions. However, the
latest death reported in Zagreb was that of an allegedly
'healthy' 33 year old who died from H1N1 related illness.
The Ministry also reported 21 more cases on November 12
bringing the total number of infected persons to 547. There
are an additional 2,327 cases of influenza (not laboratory
confirmed), bringing the total number to 2,874.

3. (U) Croatian health authorities anticipated an increase
in influenza infection and took measures to ensure health
services were available. Officials recently introduced a
special weekend rotation for doctors at clinics and hospitals
throughout the country to ensure coverage. The GoC also
purchased 1.5 million vaccines reserved for high risk groups
such as those suffering from chronic illness, health workers
and those who share their household with chronically ill
persons or children under 6 months. The first 500,000
vaccines will arrive at the start of December. Additionally,
Croatian health officials are communicating with the public
to ease panic about the recent outbreaks. Public health
officials are urging citizens to not visit doctors and
hospitals unless they are showing severe symptoms such as
high fever or difficulty breathing. They also focused their
public information campaign on preventative measures.

4. (U) Croatian print media, however, has increased the
public's anxiety about influenza through sensational coverage
of odd stories related to the flu, some of which cannot be
substantiated. For example, one leading newspaper published
an article about a village priest who counseled parishioners
to avoid any flu vaccines and to await further instructions
from the Vatican on how to proceed. Other media articles
falsely claimed that Croatia would close its border with
Serbia because of H1N1. In many cases, while the headlines
are exaggerated, the articles mostly quote doctors and
experts calling on the public to take preventative measures
and not to panic. Television coverage remains more measured
with numerous interviews with local doctors repeating the
same message, asking people to take preventative measures and
not to visit their doctors unless seriously ill.

COMMENT

5. (U) The GoC is in control of the H1N1 and other influenza
situation. Public health officials have been proactive in
both their response to informing the public about prevention
and treatment, as well as on how to cope with increasing
infections. However, in the face of sensational media
coverage, there has been additional effort needed to calm
public anxiety and urge against unnecessary doctor's visits.
FOLEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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