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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06SOFIA233
2006-02-13 16:08:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Sofia
Cable title:  

BULGARIA CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF AVIAN FLU

Tags:   TBIO  KSTH  KFLU  ECON  PREL  SOCI  WHO  BG 
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FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA
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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000233 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE, SCOTT BRANDON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KSTH KFLU ECON PREL SOCI WHO BG
SUBJECT: BULGARIA CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF AVIAN FLU


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SOFIA 000233

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/NCE, SCOTT BRANDON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KSTH KFLU ECON PREL SOCI WHO BG
SUBJECT: BULGARIA CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF AVIAN FLU



1. (U) SUMMARY: Bulgarian officials on February 12 confirmed
the country's first case of avian flu. Authorities over the
weekend were informed by a British reference lab that a wild
swan found in the Danube near the Northwestern town of Vidin
had tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus. Two other
wild swans found near the Black Sea region of Varna have
tested positive for the H5 virus (deadly to birds but not
humans) at the Sofia laboratory, and most officials expect
the British lab to soon confirm that they also died from
H5N1 virus. So far, none of the suspected cases have been
found among domestic or industrially bred poultry. The
government is calling on the public to remain calm and is
tightening measures to prevent the possible spread of the
virus into the domestic bird--and human--population. None
of Embassy Sofia's emergency action tripwires have been met.
END SUMMARY

--------------
Suspicions of Bird Flu Confirmed
--------------


2. (U) Bulgarian officials' fears that avian flu has finally
arrived in Bulgaria were confirmed by a British reference
lab this past weekend. Authorities were suspicious the
virus was present in Bulgaria after a wild swan found
February 3 in the Danube River tested positive in Sofia's
laboratory for the H5 virus. Days after the swan's
discovery, officials received further reports of more dead
birds, including at least 15 dead swans found around the
Black Sea town of Varna. Freezing cold temperatures were
suspected as the cause of death for most of the birds, but
testing revealed at least two other wild swans from the
Varna region were infected with the H5 virus.

--------------
The Government's Response
--------------


3. (U) The Bulgarian government's primary focus now is to
prevent the virus from spreading to the country's domestic
bird population, including small backyard flocks and

industrially bred poultry. To date, all of the suspected
cases of bird flu in Bulgaria have been among wild,
migratory birds. The government has imposed a 10 kilometer
quarantine around the areas where the infected birds were
found. All transportation of people and livestock into
these areas has been restricted. Vehicles entering or
leaving the quarantined areas are being disinfected. The
National Veterinary Service has stepped up its ongoing
testing of the domestic birds in these areas. For example,
a total of 200 samples taken from domestic birds in 12
population centers around Vidin have been sent to Sofia's
reference laboratory for testing.


4. (U) Authorities have ordered all governors in the
Danubian and Black Sea regions to strictly follow and
enforce the recommendations issued by the health and
veterinary services for preventing the virus from spreading
to the domestic bird population. Veterinary officials have
directed farmers to keep all domestic birds indoors and to
prevent any contact between wild and domestic birds. People
who disregard the recommendations and are found to have
birds outside can be fined 50 Bulgarian leva or USD 30.
Until now, 167 fines have been issued and have had a
significant effect on encouraging people to follow the
recommendations, according to officials. Likewise, controls
have been tightened over wholesale markets and poultry
facilities near high-risk areas. All livestock markets are
closed for poultry and are being policed by stationary
veterinary inspectors and a policeman. The government has
increased surveillance of migratory birds in the wetlands
and is maintaining its ban against hunting of wild fowl.
People are advised to stay away from water basins and wild
birds.


5. (U) The country's national emergency/crisis response
center has asked the government for emergency aid for
protective equipment and sampling kits. The veterinary
service received 500,000 leva (USD 312,500) to purchase some
of this equipment. The press reported that the manufacturer
of Tamiflu, LaRoche, had donated 500 packs of Tamiflu to
Bulgaria--300 doses for Agriculture officials and 200 for
the Civil Defense forces. The GOB has expressed a strong
need for more protective suits and lab testing equipment.
USAID is currently trying to assist Bulgaria in this regard.

--------------
Impact on Poultry Industry
--------------


6. (U) The discovery of avian flu in Bulgaria will likely

SOFIA 00000233 002 OF 002


force the EU to extend its temporary ban on the export of
Bulgarian poultry, which has been in effect since the
October discovery of Newcastle disease. The impact on
Bulgarian exporters has been small given the low level of
poultry exports to Europe. Bulgaria exports goose liver to
France and Belgium, and eggs to Switzerland. The greater
impact has been on the domestic market, with a dramatic drop
in poultry consumption. The government has tried to reverse
this trend and boost the public's confidence in the safety
of chicken by hosting a widely-publicized chicken lunch with
Cabinet Ministers sponsored by the poultry manufacturers.

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


7. (U) The GOB has already spent considerable time planning
for the eventuality that bird flu would arrive in Bulgaria.
This assumption has helped the government and general public
to prepare for the first cases of H5N1 in a way that Romania
and Turkey were not able to, according to our Agricultural
Attache. Now that the first case has been confirmed, the
government will likely focus much more of its attention and
resources on addressing the problem. The National
Veterinary Service may not have all of the resources it
needs, but it clearly is focused on the problem and
committed to addressing it head-on, in part because it would
like to show the EU that it is up to the task.