INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Still No Avian Flu in Burma; Government Prepares

Published: Fri 6 Feb 2004 02:29 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS RANGOON 000167
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, OES/IHA, EB
HHS FOR OFFICE OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS
BANGKOK FOR AID, FAS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO ECON EAID AMED KHIV BM
SUBJECT: STILL NO AVIAN FLU IN BURMA; GOVERNMENT PREPARES
FOR WORST
REF: A. STATE 23762
B. RANGOON 137
1. (SBU) Summary: Burma does not have any reported cases of
avian flu. Though the government is taking precautionary
measures (ref B), if an outbreak were to occur the regime
would be ill-prepared to face it. However, even if the worst
happens, due to current USG Burma policy it's unlikely that
we'd have any room to provide direct assistance. End summary.
Burma Still Has No Flu
2. (U) Ref A request for information indicated that Burma was
currently affected by one of the strains of avian influenza
currently sweeping Asia. As reported in ref B, and verified
with local WHO officials on February 4th, to the best of
anyone's knowledge this is not/not the case. The Burmese
government has not yet reported any cases of avian flu among
its large flock of domestic and imported chickens.
3. (U) As reported in ref B, the GOB has taken a number of
actions including launching a public education campaign and
freezing imports of chickens from Thailand unless they are
cleared by the Burmese Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries
(MOLF). MOLF together with the Ministry of Health is also
prepared to use MOLF's antiquated veterinary testing
facilities to test any sick birds from private farms and from
government chicken farms run by the Myanmar Farm Enterprise.
However, the GOB has not yet begun any culling of domestic or
previously imported chickens. We have not heard that MOLF is
vaccinating chickens.
Comment: Poorly Prepared, But We Can't Help
4. (SBU) As we mentioned in reftel, the government's secrecy
reflex and the difficulty of getting accurate news from the
provinces will make it tough for us and the WHO to ever be
"absolutely certain" that avian flu is not in Burma. It is a
concern, however, as Burma's inadequate medical
infrastructure (for both man and beast) would be very hard
pressed to effectively contain any new epidemic. Likewise,
it is very unlikely that the GOB will provide adequate
equipment or training for personnel assigned to taking care
of the problem. However, we note that whatever the situation
with Burma's chickens, and with the GOB's capacity to handle
an outbreak, current U.S. policy would make any direct USG
assistance to address the problem extremely unlikely. End
comment.
Martinez
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