|05TELAVIV6720||2005-12-01 12:14:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Tel Aviv|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 006720
1. (U) INTRO AND SUMMARY: This message is Post's response
to Ref A questions regarding the GOI's efforts to prepare
for avian and pandemic influenza, and its capability to
respond to an AI epidemic. Questions are answered in the
order provided in reftel. To date, there have been no/no
confirmed cases of H5N1 in Israel, in birds or humans. Two
American NGOs are sponsoring a regional preparedness meeting
to be held in Istanbul in December. Local experts are
seeking funding for early warning monitoring of birds
passing through Israel on their way to more vulnerable
locations in Africa. END INTRO AND SUMMARY.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
2. (U) Answers
-- ESTH Officer met with the Director of the Israel Center
for Disease Control (ICDC) Dr. Manfred Green, Advisor to the
Head of Public Services and National AI Preparedness
Coordinator Shmuel Reznikovich, and their colleagues
November 27 to discuss the GOI's national preparedness plan
to deal with a possible outbreak of avian and pandemic
influenza. The Ministry of Health (MOH) distributed a
detailed working paper (89 pages) on avian flu preparedness
October 10 that describes health care system and other
measures that will be taken if an outbreak of avian and
pandemic influenza occurs. The ICDC Director noted that the
national preparedness plan closely follows WHO guidelines
and recommendations on responding to and containing avian
and pandemic influenza.
-- The GOI has set up a national task force, with
representatives from the MOH and Ministry of Agriculture
(MOA) Veterinary Services. The team guides the development
of policy, recommends actions when needed, and provides
training in the field to deal with a potential outbreak.
-- The national preparedness plan is easily accessible to
the general public and health care professionals through the
MOH Internet website in Hebrew at www.health.gov.il. The
plan will be available on the MOH website in English in
-- MOH will participate in a regional Middle East Consortium
on Infectious Disease Surveillance (MECIDS) conference on
influenza preparedness in Istanbul December 11 - 14. The
conference is sponsored by Search for Common Ground and the
NTI Global Health and Security Initiative and will include
public health and veterinary specialists from Egypt, Jordan,
and Palestine. The organizers expect observers from Iraq,
and there may be participants from Turkey and Cyprus, as
well as WHO and other international experts. Health and
veterinary services representatives from Turkey and Cyprus
have also been invited to attend. The goal of the
conference is to coordinate regional efforts in disease
surveillance and control measures and to find ways to assist
each other in the event of a pandemic influenza outbreak.
The organizers have welcomed participation from the U.S.
Consulate in Istanbul, and Embassy has conveyed that
invitation to the Consul General.
-- The GOI will be forthcoming in reporting any AI cases,
both to the WHO and to its own citizens. In a recent case
in which a man working in a nature preserve experienced flu-
like symptoms, MOH moved quickly to test the man's blood in
country and sent blood samples overseas for confirmation
testing as well. MOH was open with press and public about
steps being taken in that case. MOH officials have stated
that they will notify WHO and the public immediately of any
confirmed cases of H5N1. So far there have not/not been any
confirmed cases of H5N1 in birds or humans in Israel.
-- The GOI is continuing to give avian and pandemic flu
preparedness high priority. The "go-to" person for USG
officials to engage on this issue is MOH Director General
Professor Avi Yisraeli at the Ministry of Health.
-- Avian and pandemic influenza has been added to Israel's
list of reportable diseases.
-- GOI health officials have been in regular contact with
the WHO, and are following WHO planning and response
guidelines. The MOH is also in contact with the Ministry of
Agriculture regarding surveillance and monitoring of poultry
and wild birds for evidence of the disease. Health
officials are also in contact with their counterparts in the
Palestinian Authority and Egypt to coordinate disease
surveillance efforts, as well as with colleagues at the U.S.
CDC, and national public health services in Canada and the
UK. GOI veterinary officials are working closely with their
Palestinian and Jordanian counterparts.
-- Israeli hospitals and HMOs currently administer annual
flu shots. Israel does produce influenza vaccines, but does
not produce Tamiflu. It might be able to contribute to
Tamiflu production under a WHO-declared emergency. Vaccines
for poultry are imported from the Netherlands. Health
officials were not aware of local research towards a H5N1
vaccine, but Israel does have related research capabilities.
-- Because AI features prominently in the local and
international press and government ministries have been
proactive in informing the Israeli public, the general
population is aware of the issue. However, health officials
expressed concern that the public may disregard or downplay
the threat of AI because of the previous public health
scares (Swine flu and SARS) that did not become pandemics.
There is also some risk that less informed third-country
nationals (TCNs), some of whom work at Israeli poultry
farms, might not be fully aware of the threat.
-- The MOA Veterinary Service has its own laboratories to
test samples from farms, markets, and migratory birds. The
MOA laboratories also serve as regional testing facilities
for suspected cases from Gaza and the West Bank, as well as
from Jordan. Protective gear and doses of Tamiflu have been
made-ready for poultry workers who may come into contact
with chickens infected with the disease. The GOI has long-
standing relationships with the USDA and APHIS.
-- MOA recently conducted an emergency action drill to train
poultry workers and Veterinary Service specialists. A U.S.
veterinary health specialist attended that exercise.
-- A critical international gap that Israel could help
address is the need for expanded monitoring and surveillance
to screen migratory birds for the H5N1 virus as part of an
early warning system. Because Israel is a major fly-over
region for migratory birds between Russia and Europe and
Africa, a more aggressive screening effort here could
identify risks for more vulnerable areas in Africa. Two
sets of local experts have submitted related proposals to
GOI ministries, but it is unclear at this point whether they
will be funded.
-- Israel has already purchased NIS 44 million (just under
USD 10 million) worth of Tamiflu. MOH has requested
additional funding of 150 million NIS to purchase additional
Tamiflu. MOH officials anticipate that the additional
supplies will be available by March. MOA officials have
many years of experience controlling and containing diseases
that may affect poultry and livestock.
-- An additional 10 million NIS has been allocated for the
purchase of protective gear. The gear will be stockpiled in
MOH warehouses. A plan detailing logistics of distribution
is in place.
-- Based on the national preparedness plan, surveillance and
monitoring of suspected cases of avian flu, emergency action
drills and planning in the agricultural sector, and efforts
made to stockpile vaccines and protective gear, the GOI
rapid response capacity appears to be good. The MOA
Veterinary Service already closely monitors poultry
producers and has stated that they would quickly cull
infected poultry stocks and/or birds. Although specific
amounts have not been decided, the GOI plans to compensate
poultry producers if it should be necessary to cull their
stock. In the case of an outbreak of avian flu, the MOA
would handle the situation by using guidelines that it has
in place for handling other diseases that affect poultry and
birds; quarantining of poultry in the affected areas would
be put into effect and the sale of poultry products would be
-- Post believes that the GOI is willing to impose
quarantine and social distancing measures. Law enforcement
and military personnel would enforce any quarantine, based
on the severity of the outbreak of the disease.