|Wikileaks:||View 06SOFIA233 at Wikileaks.org|
|Tags:||TBIO KSTH KFLU ECON PREL SOCI WHO BG|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
VZCZCXRO5208 RR RUEHAG RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHSF #0233/01 0441608 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 131608Z FEB 06 FM AMEMBASSY SOFIA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1456 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 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.
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