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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09ATHENS1816
2009-10-06 09:44:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Athens
Cable title:  

GREECE H1N1 FLU UPDATE: 7,000 STUDENTS OUT OF SCHOOL; MASS

Tags:   ASEC  CASC  KFLO  KFLU  AEMR  TBIO  KSAF  KPAO  PREL  PINR 
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VZCZCXRO1100
RR RUEHIK
DE RUEHTH #1816/01 2790945
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060944Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY ATHENS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0796
INFO RUEHIK/AMCONSUL THESSALONIKI 0018
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 001816 

SIPDIS
STATE FOR OES/IHB
STATE FOR USDA/FAS/OSTA
STATE PASS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
STATE PASS CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC KFLO KFLU AEMR TBIO KSAF KPAO PREL PINR
AMGT, GR
SUBJECT: GREECE H1N1 FLU UPDATE: 7,000 STUDENTS OUT OF SCHOOL; MASS
VACCINATION MID-OCTOBER

REF: 09 ATHENS 691; 09 ATHENS 1035; 09 ATHENS 1389

ATHENS 00001816 001.2 OF 002


UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 001816

SIPDIS
STATE FOR OES/IHB
STATE FOR USDA/FAS/OSTA
STATE PASS HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
STATE PASS CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC CASC KFLO KFLU AEMR TBIO KSAF KPAO PREL PINR
AMGT, GR
SUBJECT: GREECE H1N1 FLU UPDATE: 7,000 STUDENTS OUT OF SCHOOL; MASS
VACCINATION MID-OCTOBER

REF: 09 ATHENS 691; 09 ATHENS 1035; 09 ATHENS 1389

ATHENS 00001816 001.2 OF 002



1. SUMMARY. The number of confirmed H1N1 cases has exceeded 2,100
in Greece in the period May-October 2009 but the unrecorded
infections are estimated at 20 to 30 times that number. Greece had
12 serious cases and 3 fatalities from H1N1 infection to date,
however 95 percent of patients have fully recovered. About 7,000
students nationwide have been out of school because they got the flu
while four high schools in Athens were closed for a few days as a
precaution. Health Minister announced the creation of three
committees for A/H1N1 novel influenza as well as new vaccination
centers and flu clinics. The inoculation of the general population
in Greece will begin in late October with the vulnerable groups
taking the lead. Meanwhile, parents and doctors object to mass
vaccination plans, expressing concerns that the side effects of the
new vaccine may outweigh the mild symptoms of the flu. END SUMMARY.
H1N1 Cases
--------------

2. As of October 1, more than 2,100 cases of H1N1 infection have
been diagnosed in Greece but the number of unrecorded infections is
estimated at 20 to 30 times that number. According to the Ministry
of Education at least 7,000 students nationwide have been absent
because they came down with the novel flu since the beginning of the
school year on September 11. Four high schools in the Athens broader
area, including the American affiliated private schools Pierce
College and Athens College, were closed for seven days following
dozens of students presenting flu-like symptoms and taking leave as a

precaution. The symptoms of the flu continue to be mild in the
majority of the cases while 95 percent of patients have fully
recovered. To date, Greece had 12 serious cases and 3 fatalities
from H1N1 infection.
Vaccination
--------------

3. Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced on October 1 that
the inoculation of the general population in Greece would begin in 20
days' time beginning with the vulnerable groups. The Minister said
that 100,000 vaccines have already been imported and are stored at
the National Health Center facilities in Athens. Another 100,000
vaccines are due to arrive in the next few days. The vaccine will
initially be administered to the vulnerable or high risk population
groups, which are estimated at nearly 2.5 million people.
Avramopoulos noted that the European Drugs Agency has recently
approved the use of the novel flu vaccine and mass vaccinations would
soon begin in several European countries.

4. Meanwhile, concerns about the side effects of the new vaccine are
being expressed by parents and doctors in Greece. Parents
Associations question the expediency of mass vaccinations and note
the existence of special cases among those inoculated i.e. diabetics
or those suffering from other diseases. The doctors' community has
expressed similar concerns. A questionnaire measuring the intention
to be vaccinated distributed to 152 doctors and dentists of the
Social Security Center of Piraeus received 66 percent negative
answers, 20 percent undecided and only 14 percent positive answers.
The mild symptoms of the flu H1N1 combined with the fear that the new
vaccine has not been tested enough are the basis of these concerns.
Other GoG Measures
--------------

5. A few weeks ago, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced
on September 1, the creation of three committees for A/H1N1 novel
influenza as well as new vaccination centers and flu clinics to boost
operational planning for coping with the disease. Avramopoulos said
that the ministry would set up a Supreme Ethics and Conduct Committee
for the flu as well as two special committees for epidemiological and
clinical monitoring of its progress. The Minister emphasized that
the instructions given by the World Health Organization (WHO) are
being strictly adhered to. He thought the period of maximum
intensity in the virus' progress was not expected to last long in
Greece, where winters come later and end sooner. Education Minister
Aris Spiliotopoulos also unveiled an action plan against novel
influenza in schools ahead of the school opening on September 11.
The action plan includes the operation of a special hotline through
which the public receives information by specialized personnel,
access to information through the education ministry website, a
two-week educational television program with simplified guidelines
for primary and secondary education school children and their
parents, and the reservation of more than 45,000 vaccines for
teaching personnel. In case of school closings, a special program on
educational television is in operation for children who miss classes.

Private American Citizen Cases
--------------

ATHENS 00001816 002.2 OF 002



6. The Consular Sections in Athens and Thessaloniki monitor and
provide assistance to private American citizens diagnosed with H1N1,
and over the past months became familiar with twenty eight such
cases, evenly divided between the two posts. In the last two months,
however, there has only been one new case, involving a cruise ship
passenger who also suffers from cystic fibrosis who is currently
hospitalized in Athens. The last cases of Americans who were
involuntarily quarantined occurred in early July.


Embassy plans
--------------

7. The Embassy Medical Unit is coordinating H1N1 preparation and
response according to guidance issued by the CDC and MED Washington.
Currently, the Embassy is well stocked with supplies required during
an influenza outbreak, to include anti-viral medications, various
masks and respirators, gowns, gloves, and antibacterial
hand-sanitizers. In addition, literature and guidance aimed at
decreasing disease transmission along with patient education will be
disseminated throughout the upcoming months to the Embassy community.
The Medical Unit is awaiting shipment of the seasonal influenza
vaccine, and will encourage all Embassy personnel and families to be
vaccinated, in accordance with CDC guidelines. Once H1N1 vaccine
arrives from MED Washington, high-risk personnel will be vaccinated
according to CDC recommendations; at this time, there is no target
date for H1N1 vaccine arrival. In the past 4 months, there have not
been any cases of documented Influenza A or H1N1 in our Embassy
population. Should a spike in influenza cases occur in our
population, the Medical Unit will work with Management to implement
mission policies aimed at decreasing transmission and infection
rates.
Speckhard