US embassy cable - 06NICOSIA150

CYPRUS AI UPDATE: VISITING EU EXPERT REPORTS OUTBREAK APPEARS UNDER CONTROL; GOC QUESTIONS TEST RESULTS

Identifier: 06NICOSIA150
Wikileaks: View 06NICOSIA150 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Nicosia
Created: 2006-02-03 14:44:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: KFLU EAGR EAID KSCA TBIO KSTH WHO AMED CASC
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXYZ0017
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNC #0150/01 0341444
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 031444Z FEB 06
FM AMEMBASSY NICOSIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5499
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN IMMEDIATE 0380
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA IMMEDIATE 4525
RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS IMMEDIATE 3480
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE 4102
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE 0153
RUEHDM/AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS IMMEDIATE 2032
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 1122
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA IMMEDIATE 0403
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS NICOSIA 000150 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
AMMAN FOR RMO 
CAIRO FOR RMO 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KFLU, EAGR, EAID, KSCA, TBIO, KSTH, WHO, AMED, CASC, 
PREL, CY 
SUBJECT: CYPRUS AI UPDATE: VISITING EU EXPERT REPORTS 
OUTBREAK APPEARS UNDER CONTROL; GOC QUESTIONS TEST RESULTS 
 
REF: A. NICOSIA 125 
 
     B. NICOSIA 116 
     C. NICOSIA 76 
     D. NICOSIA 74 
     E. NICOSIA 50 
     F. NICOSIA 34 
     G. 05 NICOSIA 1914 
     H. 05 NICOSIA 1866 
     I. 05 NICOSIA 1836 
     J. 05 NICOSIA 1740 AND PREVIOUS 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: At a private briefing February 1, a 
visiting EU veterinary expert called the Turkish Cypriot 
response to positive H5N1 tests for a cock and hen in north 
Cyprus on January 29 (ref b) "adequate," and said the 
outbreak appears isolated and under control.   Since no other 
AI cases have been reported, GoC officials, who are 
increasingly worried about AI,s potential impact on tourism, 
have publicly questioned the test results, suggesting the 
samples may have been inadvertently switched in Turkey.  On 
February 1, the USAID-funded, UNDP-administered ACT program 
hosted a WHO health expert who held a seminar with Greek 
Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot health and veterinary experts 
designed to foster increased cooperation across the Green 
Line.  The Embassy issued a warden message January 30 and 
began doing outreach to the American community.  Also on 
February 1, UNFICYP found several dead chickens in a plastic 
bag in the buffer zone and handed them over to the Greek 
Cypriot veterinary service for testing.  Results are not 
expected until early next week.  End summary. 
 
Readout from Visiting EU Vet Experts 
------------------------------------ 
2. (SBU) Visiting EU veterinary expert Jurgen Lohr told us 
February 1 that the Turkish Cypriot response to the two 
confirmed cases of H5N1 in poultry in the north Cyprus 
village of Incirli (Makrasyka in Greek) had been, "adequate, 
not brilliant, but adequate."   Lohr, who visited Incirli 
(Makrasyka) and several of the villages in the 10km 
surveillance zone, said the outbreak appears to be under 
control and isolated.  He described the Turkish Cypriot 
veterinary experts as open and transparent.  The incident had 
been a good training exercise that has made the Turkish 
Cypriot community better prepared for the future. 
 
3. (SBU) Lohr said it was unclear how the birds (a cock and a 
hen -- not a turkey and chicken as was widely reported 
earlier) contracted H5N1.  There were only two alternatives: 
1) at least one of the birds had come from Turkey -- the cock 
was a half breed of a variety of chicken often used for cock 
fighting.  The owners, however, reported that chickens had 
been in their possession for some time and had not traveled 
recently.  2) exposure to migratory birds.  There were at 
least two lakes in the vicinity where migratory birds have 
congregated.  If migratory birds were the cause, the Turkish 
Cypriots were very fortunate to have caught the outbreak that 
quickly.  WHO expert Dr. Guenael Rodier noted that most 
outbreaks in poultry in other countries had been preceded by 
the discovery of clusters of dead wild birds.  This had not 
been the case in Cyprus, but this could be explained should 
the migratory and wild birds on Cyprus all be immune to H5N1 
and act as carriers. 
 
4. (SBU) Lohr also noted that the birds had been kept in a 
small pen with two other chickens, which tested negative for 
H5N1 two days after the death of the cock and hen.  Rodier 
said it was unusual that the other chickens would not also 
have contracted H5N1 but said this was not impossible as some 
birds become so overwhelmed by the disease that they die 
before they have a chance to spread the virus. 
 
5. (SBU) Lohr also noted that there was still confusion on 
when the original samples were sent to Turkey for analysis. 
The birds were found dead on January 12 and the Turkish 
Cypriot rapid test proved positive for an A-type virus.  The 
birds were either sent to the laboratory near Izmir, Turkey 
on January 13 (during the week-long Bayram holiday) or 
January 20.  What we do know is that the Izmir laboratory 
 
contacted the Turkish Cypriots on January 22 to inform them 
that an egg inoculation test proved positive for H5.  At that 
point the Turkish Cypriot authorities culled all the poultry 
within a 3 km radius and set up a 10km surveillance zone that 
included six other villages and a small chicken egg and a 
small chicken meat farm (broiler).  They also began an 
aggressive public information campaign with frequent spots on 
television and the radio.  The Izmir laboratory sent the 
samples to the EU reference laboratory at Weybridge UK only 
on January 27.  On January 29, Weybridge informed the 
European Commission that the two Turkish Cypriot samples 
tested positive for highly pathogenic H5N1 of a variety 
identical to that found in Turkey. 
 
Greek Cypriot Response 
---------------------- 
6. (SBU) The positive test prompted the Greek Cypriot 
veterinary service and the UK Sovereign Base Area (SBA) of 
Dhekalia to extend the 10km surveillance zone into the 
territory they control, including the villages of Achna, 
Avgorou, Xylotymbou, Ormidei and Pyla. The UK SBA response 
has been to open its territory to the Greek Cypriot 
veterinary service and to apply whatever measures the Greek 
Cypriots recommend.  Both the GoC and the UK SBA also began 
applying disinfectant on the tires/feet of all 
vehicles/pedestrians passing south across the Green Line. 
While this led originally to waits as long as two to three 
hours to cross, the process has been streamlined.  Statistics 
from the Turkish Cypriot police nevertheless show that the 
number of Turkish Cypriots crossing south had not changed, 
while the number of Greek Cypriots crossing to the north had 
dropped 20 percent.  Partially in retaliation, Turkish 
Cypriot authorities began February 1, applying disinfectant 
on vehicles/shoes of cars/pedestrians crossing north. 
 
Greek Cypriot Suggest Samples May Have Been Switched 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
7. (SBU) Given the lack of other confirmed cases of H5N1 and 
the survival of the two birds, pen mates, on February 2 the 
RoC Health and Agriculture Ministers both publicly questioned 
whether the samples tested at Weybridge had really come from 
Cyprus.  Instead the Ministers, who appeared concerned about 
the possible affect of the outbreak on tourism, suggested 
that the samples could have been inadvertently switched with 
samples from Eastern Turkey at the laboratory in Izmir.  Lohr 
said that this was a possible scenario, but that it could 
neither be confirmed nor ruled out.  The Turkish Cypriot 
veterinary service had shipped the entire birds to Izmir and 
had not kept a sample for itself, thus there was no control 
sample that could be used for further testing. 
 
8. (U) Also on February 2, the head of the Cyprus Tourism 
Organization reported that so far the outbreak had not had 
any effect on tourism.  The Cypriot economy is dependent on 
the 2.5 million tourists who visit the south every year. 
Chicken farmers, however, have been especially hurt. 
Industry representatives have reported a drop in sales of 
chicken meat and eggs of 70 percent in the south and 90 
percent in the north.  In the north, there have been reports 
that the price of red meat, a substitute for poultry, has 
nearly tripled. 
 
USAID Program Facilitating Cooperation Across Green Line 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
9. (SBU) On February 1, the USAID-financed, UNDP-administered 
ACT program hosted an educational outreach visit by WHO AI 
health expert Guenael Rodier.  Rodier led a seminar involving 
both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot veterinary and health 
experts and highlighted the need for close cooperation among 
the two communities in a press conference.  While ACT has 
been bringing the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot 
veterinary experts together for several months, this is the 
first time that health experts from the two communities had 
agreed to be in the same room.  On February 7, the Public 
Affairs section will host a DVC between another WHO AI expert 
and Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot health and veterinary 
experts. 
 
Embassy Outreach 
---------------- 
10. (U) The Embassy has also increased its AI-related 
outreach to the American community.  On January 30 the 
Embassy issued a warden message.  On February 2, consular 
officers met with the small American community at Eastern 
Mediterranean University in Famagusta, located around 20 kms 
from the site of the outbreak.  A larger town hall meeting 
with the RMO is scheduled for February 8. 
 
Dead Birds Found in Buffer Zone 
------------------------------- 
11. (SBU) On February 1, UNDP ACT Environment Officer Nic 
Jarraud told us that UNFICYP had found around 6 dead birds in 
a plastic bag dumped in the buffer zone.  Where the birds 
came from was not clear.  The birds were found in an area 
where Turkish Cypriots had frequently dumped garbage and 
which was generally only accessible from the north.  The 
birds had been handed over to the GoC veterinary service 
which was testing for AI.  Results, however, were not 
expected until early next week. 
 
Comment 
------- 
12. (SBU) Regardless of the doubts being cast on the veracity 
of the samples, both communities have taken the apparent 
outbreak very seriously and appear to be doing the right 
things.  Pending the results of the tests on the dead birds 
found in the buffer zone, the outbreak appears isolated and 
under control.  As Dr. Lohr noted, the incident appears to 
have been a good training exercise for both sides and may 
have helped spark increased AI-related cooperation between 
the two communities.  On January 31, at the Turkish Cypriots 
invitation, the head of the GoC Veterinary Service even 
accompanied Dr. Lohr on his site visits in the north.  This 
cooperation will most likely be needed in the future as 
Cyprus,s location on two major pathways for migratory birds, 
makes reintroduction of H5N1 onto the island highly likely. 
 
SCHLICHER 

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