US embassy cable - 06ROME464

AVIAN INFLUENZA: FAO PRESS CONFERENCE PROVIDES GLOBAL UPDATE (ON NIGERIA, AZERBAIJAN, IRAQ, AND ITALY/GREECE)

Identifier: 06ROME464
Wikileaks: View 06ROME464 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Rome
Created: 2006-02-15 16:29:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: KFLU EAGR EAID CASC SENV SOCI TBIO NI IT GR BU UP AM AJ GG FAO WHO IQ AVIAN INFLUENZA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ROME 000464 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR IO/EDA, EUR/SE, EUR/WE, NEA/ENA, EA/SEA, OES/IHA 
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA GGOTTLIEB, PMORRIS; GH/KHILL, DCARROLL 
AND BZINNER; AFR/MHARVEY, ALOZANO; EGAT A/AA JSMITH; 
ANE/ACLEMENTS 
USDA FOR OSEC STUMP/PENN/LAMBERT/CAINE, FAS 
PETTRIE/HUGHES/CLERKIN, APHIS CLIFFORD/HOFFMAN 
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH/USAID 
HHS FOR OGHA (STEIGER) 
BRUSSELS FOR PLERNER 
PARIS FOR GCARNER 
USEUCOM FOR ECJ4 
VIENNA PASS APHIS 
CAIRO PASS APHIS 
MILAN PLEASE PASS TO TURIN OFFICE 
 
FROM THE U.S. MISSION TO THE UN AGENCIES IN ROME 
 
E.O.  12958:  N/A 
TAGS: KFLU, EAGR, EAID, CASC, SENV, SOCI, TBIO, NI, IT, GR, BU, UP, AM, AJ, GG, FAO, WHO, IQ, AVIAN INFLUENZA 
SUBJECT: AVIAN INFLUENZA: FAO PRESS CONFERENCE PROVIDES 
GLOBAL UPDATE (ON NIGERIA, AZERBAIJAN, IRAQ, AND 
ITALY/GREECE) 
 
REF: (A) 05 ROME 3949; (B) 05 ROME 3320; (C) 05 ROME 2979; 
 
     (D) 05 ROME 1142; (E) 05 ROME 3976; (F) 06 ROME 0087; 
(G) 06 ROME 0000; (H) 06 UNROME 0315; (I) 06 UNROME 0430 
 
1.  On February 14, FAO held a press conference to provide 
a global update on Avian Influenza.  Areas highlighted were 
Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Europe in general (with a 
primary focus on Italy), and future preparations for Latin 
America/Caribbean.  Samuel Jutzi, Director of FAO's Animal 
Production and Health Division, and Juan Lubroth, FAO 
Senior Veterinary Officer/Infectious Diseases, were joined 
by Romano Marabelli, Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) for the 
Government of Italy.  FAO officials commended Italy for 
taking extremely effective and rapid control measures and 
noted that there is no reason to panic in Europe at 
present, as European poultry is safe for consumption and 
the region is well prepared.  Other remarks follow: 
 
2. Nigeria:  Jutzi opened by stating that FAO CVO Joseph 
Domenech, who was in Chad, was expected to travel to 
Nigeria on February 15 to assist the international 
assessment team already in place (reftel 06 UN ROME 0430). 
He also noted that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza 
(HPAI) is widely circulating in Nigerian commercial and 
rural poultry farms. Lubroth stated that Nigeria, followed 
by Iraq and Azerbajian, is one of the most problematic 
areas presently.  The Government of Nigeria, which had the 
foresight in November 2005 to set up an Avian Influenza 
presidential/ministerial level task force comprised of 
eight teams of veterinarians, epidemiologists and other 
specialists, is currently restricting the movement of 
poultry out of Kaduna and Kano states.  When asked by a 
journalist why it took FAO so long to identify the H5N1 
virus in Nigeria, Lubroth responded that, initially, 
experts believed they were dealing with Newcastle Disease 
(NCD) and HPAI was suspected only when commercial farmers 
reported the deaths of 40,000 chickens in early February. 
Jutzi also interjected that, even if FAO knows the virus is 
circulating, the organization cannot publicly reveal the 
information before the government formally acknowledges the 
virus' presence by reporting it to the World Organisation 
for Animal Health (OIE). 
 
3. When questioned whether there are suspected cases in 
other African countries, Lubroth responded that FAO tracks 
rumors on large animal die offs, and there are quite a few 
rumors FAO is tracking right now in Africa and around the 
world.  However, it would be irresponsible of FAO to give 
out a list of countries before tests confirm suspicions and 
rule out whether animals died as a result of or were culled 
for a number of other diseases. 
 
4.  Azerbaijan:  Lubroth stated that the FAO/OIE reference 
laboratory in Weybridge, United Kingdom, confirmed H5N1 in 
samples sent from the Baku area where nearly 200,000 
migrating birds spend their winter.  It is believed that 
the wild birds congregating around the Caspian Sea are 
responsible for spreading the virus to the Caucasus and 
Balkans. 
 
5.  Iraq: Lubroth stated that five districts in the north 
[Suleimaini (sp) province] are affected, with 130,000- 
180,000 birds being culled thus far in an effort to contain 
the spread.  Authorities have set up monitoring teams, 
including a border patrol along the northern border with 
Turkey.  All slaughterhouses have been closed except one. 
Lubroth stated that early diagnosis of HPAI was a result of 
activities set up to detect NCD, which is now rampant in 
Iraq (Note: FAO has requested U.S. assistance to combat NCD 
there.  End Note)  The Iraqi Ambassador to FAO, who was in 
the audience, inquired whether anyone from FAO visited 
Iraq, noting that his ministry practically scolded him for 
not knowing this answer and not being more proactive with 
FAO.  Lubroth reported that the FAO veterinary [Dr. Taliabi 
(sp)] based in Cairo was on mission there with the WHO team 
and that he is working closely with Sam Yinx (sp) of the 
U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit also based in Cairo 
(reftel 06 UN ROME 0430). 
 
6.  Latin America/Caribbean (LAC): Jutzi announced that, 
last week, FAO Director General Diouf released an 
additional $2 million from FAO Technical Cooperation 
Program (TCP) funds to set up regional TCPs in Latin 
America. The TCP proposals, which are currently being 
developed by FAO, plan to include all countries and aim to 
restructure and improve veterinary networks and 
surveillance systems.  When a Finnish Radio reporter asked 
whether FAO believed HPAI is a global problem currently, 
Jutzi replied that, although the virus is not yet present 
in LAC, FAO has been saying for over one year that this 
will be a global problem, and, therefore, must invest to 
improve networks there as well. 
 
7.  Europe in general: Jutzi stated that there is no reason 
to panic in Europe at present, as the problem is in birds, 
not humans, both in Greece and Italy.  Europe has extensive 
surveillance and veterinary networks, and European poultry 
is safe to eat.  Last summer, FAO warned of the real risk 
for Africa, but the real risk for Europe will be when wild 
birds start to migrate north later this spring/early 
summer.   If the virus is as entrenched as it is in Africa, 
there will be a real risk to European poultry from the wild 
birds returning from Africa.  As a matter of protection, 
FAO supported the move by some European countries to 
transfer poultry indoors and cover outside coops with anti- 
passerine nets.  Historically, Europe's vast experience in 
dealing with transboundary animal diseases and its highly 
developed culture of early detection and response makes it 
extremely well prepared. 
 
8. Lubroth stated that the risk to Europe is unknown and 
remains theoretical.  FAO does not have a grasp yet on the 
reservoirs of the virus that, upon return to Europe, will 
infect European birds.  As part of the regional TCPs set up 
in Africa, FAO is currently conducting studies on wild 
birds (congregating in Chad, for example) and hopes to know 
more in coming weeks.  In response to an ANSA reporter's 
question on whether there is an increased risk of 
transmission to humans from urban species, such as pigeons, 
starlings, or swallows, which may interface with wild 
birds, Lubroth stated that the risk is pretty low, as the 
known reservoirs that shed in high quantities are related 
to the duck family and not to passerine family. 
 
9.  Italy:  Italian CVO, Dr. Romano Marabelli, who was 
president of OIE International Committee, stated that 
Italian authorities have been actively monitoring as of 
last fall and, with the help of the renowned national 
laboratory in Padua, which happens to be an FAO/OIE 
reference laboratory, were able to positively identify H5N1 
immediately in the dead swans found in Catania, Messina, 
Sicily, Calabria, Puglia and Lecce.  Due to cold weather in 
the Balkans, these swans traveled south to warmer regions 
of Italy where they introduced the virus.  Italian 
authorities took appropriate (EU-standard) measures by 
monitoring areas and blocking the movement of poultry. 
Currently, authorities are keeping a close watch on all 
affected areas. 
 
10. In response to questions by local and foreign 
journalists, Marabelli stated that there is no proof the 
virus has been transmitted to domesticated animals, as all 
tests have come back negative.  The Government of Italy 
(GOI) task force will increase its monitoring of swans.  He 
clarified that the HPAI virus in wild birds such as swans 
cannot be transmitted directly to humans; rather, the virus 
requires a vector as an intermediary.  He also noted that 
WHO has not yet declared a pandemic and, therefore, has not 
identified a virus for which a vaccine must be developed, 
but the GOI has made plans to obtain 36 million doses.  At 
the moment, however, the UN (WHO/FAO) focus should be on 
reducing the level of risk in Africa.  He also stated that 
the GOI issued a directive to all mayoral offices last fall 
to carry out a census on backyard poultry farms.  As a 
result, many small farmers have put up anti-passerine nets 
over breeding grounds.  Currently, Italian authorities are 
focusing their attention on farms in areas where wild swans 
were found and continuously check and recheck family farms, 
but have not yet come across the virus at any of these 
farms. 
 
11.  USMISSION UN ROME will continue to cover and widely 
disseminate information on FAO activities to combat and 
control Avian Influenza. 
 
CLEVERLEY 

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