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05ZAGREB1741 2005-10-26 15:00:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Zagreb
Cable title:  

H5N1 CONFIRMED IN CROATIA: OVERVIEW OF

Tags:   TBIO PREL EAID WHO HR 
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UNCLAS        ZAGREB 01741

SIPDIS
R 261500Z OCT 05

FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5262
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 001741 

SIPDIS

DEPT PLEASE PASS TO DS/DSS, DS/IP, M/MED/JCTRIPLETT
FAS/CMP/DLP WETZEL AND MAGGINNIS
FAS/ITP/EAMED POMEROY AND FLEMING

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO PREL EAID WHO HR
SUBJECT: H5N1 CONFIRMED IN CROATIA: OVERVIEW OF
PREPAREDNESS

REF: ZAGREB 1436, 1729



1. SUMMARY: Croatian Veterinary authorities
confirmed on October 26 the presence of the H5N1
virus in dead swans found in the eastern part of the
country last week. The GOC has been rapid and
transparent in its handling of the situation thus
far. This message summarizes the situation to date,
the GOC response and Embassy preparedness. END
SUMMARY



--------------------------


H5N1 in Croatia


--------------------------





2. Croatian veterinary authorities detected the
avian influenza virus H5 subtype in six dead swans
found October 19 at the Grudnjak fish-breeding farm
in eastern Croatia. The H5 subtype was subsequently
identified on Monday, October 20 and Tuesday,
October 21 in swans from two different locations
several kilometers from the original site. Virus
samples were sent to the EC reference laboratory for
avian influenza in Weybridge, England for further
testing and the results confirming the presence of
H5N1 were received on October 26.




--------------------------


Control Measures


--------------------------





3. In reaction to the initial finding on October
19, the GOC implemented various safeguards including
culling all poultry (approximately 17,000 poultry
worth 200,000 USD) within 3 kilometers of the site
where the dead swans were found; banning all sales
of garden poultry (poultry not raised commercially
and/or slaughtered in registered slaughterhouses);
banning hunting of wild birds; increasing biosafety
precautions including mandatory disinfection-baths
near Grudnjak and disinfection of transport vehicles
from production facilities to slaughterhouses
nationwide.



4. In September 2005, the government established a
committee to address the threat of avian and
pandemic influenza chaired by Dr. Mate Brstilo,
Assistant Minister, Veterinary Directorate, Ministry
of Agriculture that includes representatives from
the Institute of Public Health, Ministry of Health,
the Veterinary Institute, the Ministry of Interior,
and the Army. After meeting with Dr. Brstilo and
his team on October 25 and 26, the Dutch
agricultural counsellor reported that, in his
opinion, the Croatians have the situation under
control, but that several technical problems were
identified. These problems include insufficient
testing equipment, lack of expertise on AI
epidemiology, and the need for software and
information technology expertise for data analysis.
The Netherlands plans to offer the GOC technical
assistance to address these issues.



5. With respect to addressing the threat of
pandemic influenza, the Croatian Preventative Health
Headquarters (established in 2002 to deal with
potential anthrax and SARS breakouts) prepared a
draft National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan
(NPIPP). The plan was developed using guidelines
and input from the WHO and EU. The GOC is currently
reviewing the NPIPP.



--------------------------


Implications for the Poultry Export Market


--------------------------





6. On October 25, the European Commission voted to
suspend the import of live poultry from Croatia but
has not yet restricted imports of poultry meat and
other poultry products. Croatian producers exported
approximately 7000 tons of poultry products worth
18.5 million USD in 2004. This sector is one of the
few sectors where Croatia enjoys a trade surplus.
According to the Croatian Chamber of Economy, Prime
Minister Sanader has promised that the government
will buy poultry from producers should exports be
suspended. According to a Croatian business daily,
domestic poultry demand dropped by 40 percent in the
days following the announcement that the H5 subtype
had been found.


--------------------------


GOC and Media reaction


--------------------------




7. The GOC has been proactive in their handling of
the case. The Ministry of Agriculture made the
information public the same day they became aware
that the H5 subtype had been found in Croatia. The
Minister of Health, Neven Ljubicic, spoke to the
press over the weekend to assure the public that
while "the alarm about poultry is justified,... the
alarm about people is exaggerated" and stressed that
the government was engaged in all types of crisis
preparedness including potential pandemics.



8. Avian flu has dominated the Croatian press
since the announcement on Friday that swans in
Croatia have been infected. Headlines and photos
are sensationalistic, but reporting is largely
factual. Avian flu has covered from three and
nine pages in the most widely read dailies and is
the leading story in all major Croatian newspapers
and on all TV and radio news broadcasts.



--------------------------


Embassy preparedness


--------------------------




9. The DCM chaired a meeting of the Emergency
Action Committee on Tuesday, October 25 to review
the threat of avian influenza, discuss contingency
planning and information outreach, and coordinate
embassy interaction with the GOC. The Medical Unit
has purchased stocks of antiviral medication
(Tamiflu) on the economy and the RMO from Vienna
will hold an AI information session with embassy
personnel on Thursday, October 27.



--------------------------


Consular outreach


--------------------------




10. The Consular section has drafted a warden
message to inform American citizens of the
confirmation of H5N1 in Croatia and provide them
with the basic CDC guidelines and relevant website
links regarding the virus. The warden message is
currently in the clearance process.

FRANK