US embassy cable - 06SOFIA233

BULGARIA CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF AVIAN FLU

Identifier: 06SOFIA233
Wikileaks: View 06SOFIA233 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Sofia
Created: 2006-02-13 16:08:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
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. 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04