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06CAIRO1100 2006-02-21 16:42:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Cairo
Cable title:  

EGYPT: AVIAN INFLUENZA UPDATE

Tags:   TBIO AMED CASC SENV EAGR EAID EG KFLU 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  UNCLAS CAIRO 001100 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

FOR NEA, NEA/ELA, NEA/RA
FOR OES, OES/IHA
NSC STAFF FOR SINGH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO AMED CASC SENV EAGR EAID EG KFLU
SUBJECT: EGYPT: AVIAN INFLUENZA UPDATE

REF: A. CAIRO 1007


B. CAIRO 1006

Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.



1. (SBU) Summary. H5N1 avian influenza has spread to twelve
governorates in Egypt. Poultry sales have virtually ceased
since the February 17 GOE announcement (ref A) that H5N1 had
been detected. The GOE has instituted a number of measures
to combat the outbreak, but it is unclear how effective they
are. Popular fear may prove the most effective avian
influenza countermeasure. End summary.



2. (SBU) Egyptian officials have told emboffs (but not yet
announced publicly) that infected birds have been found in
twelve governorates, up from the initial three reported
February 17. Ministry of Agriculture officials also told
emboffs that three commercial flocks have been affected;
10,000 birds have been culled at one of those farms. No
human cases have been detected. Health Minister El Gabaly is
quoted in the press that 200 people in contact with infected
birds have tested negative for H5N1 and that the GOE has
tested 5,000 people for H5N1 since October 2005, all of whom
tested negative.



3. (SBU) It is difficult to assess the extent and
effectiveness of GOE countermeasures. Egyptian officials
report that three kilometer quarantine areas are established
around each suspected incident site and all birds within the
quarantine areas are culled. On February 19, the Minister of
Agriculture issued a decree prohibiting for fifteen days the
transport between governorates of all live birds without a
permit. The decree also prohibits transportation of poultry
manure, feathers, and all poultry by-products. Exempt are
day-old chicks, eggs, and chilled/frozen poultry slaughtered
at approved plants. The decree also prohibits the sale of
live birds in public markets and bans backyard and rooftop
coops.



4. (SBU) By February 19, merchants who sell and slaughter
live chickens had generally closed in compliance with the
Agriculture Minister's decree; those that remained open had
little business. Poultry prices have plunged, while the
prices of other protein sources (such as fish) have
increased. The price of live chicken had already fallen from
LE 6.50 per kilo to LE 3.70 (exchange rate LE 5.75/dollar)
just before the February 17 announcement. The Egyptian
Federation of Poultry Producers confirmed that, since the
announcement, bird sales have virtually stopped.



5. (SBU) The frequent appearance of government officials on
television has not stopped rumors and misinformation. Post
denied a February 21 report in one of Cairo's more
sensationalist newspapers that the U.S. Naval Medical
Research Unit (NAMRU-3) informed the GOE of H5N1 in Egypt
weeks ago but that the GOE suppressed the information. (The
text of the denial is posted on Embassy Cairo's web site.)
Rumors, fueled by text messages, that Cairo's drinking water
had been contaminated by farmers dumping chickens in the Nile
spread throughout the city in minutes on the afternoon of
February 21, overwhelming phone lines and prompting the
Ministers of Information and Health to take to the airwaves
to issue denials.



6. (SBU) Comment. Despite the importance of poultry as a
source of protein in the Egyptian diet, popular fear of bird
flu may prove the most potent countermeasure of all. The
rapid spread of the drinking water rumor and collapse of the
poultry market indicate how apprehensive Egyptians are about
the disease. There are anecdotal reports that those trying
to evade closure of backyard and rooftop coops are being
pressured by neighbors to comply. For the time being, those
trying to keep birds may find that they are not worth the
cost of feed. End comment.

RICCIARDONE