INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Avian Flu Preparedness in Israel - a Major

Published: Fri 26 Aug 2005 01:02 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 005279
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
STATE FOR OES/PCI, NEA/IPA AND NEA/RA
USDA FOR APHIS/US/NCIE
HHS FOR OGHA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO ECON PREL SOCI EAGR IS ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
SUBJECT: AVIAN FLU PREPAREDNESS IN ISRAEL - A MAJOR
MIGRATORY BIRD HUB
REF: STATE 153802
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - HANDLE ACCORDINGLY.
1. (SBU) Summary: The GOI is putting together plans for
dealing with a possible outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) and
will share those with Embassy once available. The Ministry
of Health has purchased USD 10 million worth of the Tamiflu
vaccine and has been in contact with international agencies
and U.S. counterparts. The Health and Agriculture Ministries
will inform Embassy of any cases of AI in Israel. No cases
have been discovered to date. The senior GOI point of
contact for AI preparedness is the Director General of the
Ministry of Health, Avi Yisraeli. Approximately half a
billion migratory birds pass over Israel twice a year,
including about 90 percent of the migratory populations
originating in Russia. End Summary.
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GOI Has Spent NIS 44 Million on Tamiflu Vaccine
--------------------------------------------- --
2. (SBU) Ministry of Health Director General Avi Yisraeli
told ESTH Officer August 25 that the GOI shares USG concerns
about Avian Influenza (AI). Yisraeli is the senior GOI point
of contact on AI preparations. He has been in contact with
international agencies and U.S. counterparts. DG Yisraeli
can be reached at 972-2-670-5706. Yisraeli said that the GOI
was in the early stages of AI preparations. He promised to
share plans with Embassy as they are developed by the Health
Ministry and other ministries. The Health Ministry has spend
NIS 44 million (approximately USD 10 million) to buy a supply
of the Tamiflu vaccine manufactured by Roche of Switzerland.
Tamiflu is a neuraminidase inhibitor which attacks enzymes in
flu viruses to limit their ability to multiply in the body.
It is taken by mouth in capsule form. The Health Ministry
believes that the wide availability of Tamiflu in the health
basket will assist in controlling an outbreak of the H5N1
virus if it were to occur in Israel. The Ministry of
Agriculture will also inform Embassy if it discovers any
cases of AI.
3. (SBU) The MOH Head of Epidemiology told ESTH Assistant
August 24 that the GOI plan for prevention and control of AI
should be published in Hebrew shortly. Based on the GOI's
response to the SARS virus, he expected that a similar
comprehensive health education website will be developed
quickly in both Hebrew and English if the global incidence of
AI increases rapidly.
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Israel a Major Route for Migratory Birds
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4. (U) Israel is a major thoroughfare for migratory birds
from Russia, Europe and Asia. According to Dr. Yossi Leshem,
head of the Migratory Bird Center and former executive
director of the Society for the Preservation of Nature in
Israel, an estimated five hundred and fifty million birds fly
over Israel twice a year, heading north to breeding grounds
in Europe and Asia from March through May, and south to
forage in Africa from August through November. Tens of
thousands of birds can stop in Israel to feed and rest at any
given time.
5. (SBU) Dr. Gidon Perlman, an associate of Leshem's, told
ESTH Assistant August 24 that many of the wild birds that fly
across Israel are asymptomatic carriers of a number of
different AI types, including H5, H7 and H9. Perlman said
that 90 percent of the migratory birds originating in Russia
transit Israel. He noted that a number of different species
overfly Israel traveling between Siberia and the U.K.
Perlman said that no special monitoring of wild bird
populations for AI is taking place at present. He commented
that because pigs are not raised on a large scale in Israel
there is less risk of zoonotic transmission. Nonetheless, if
there is an outbreak of H5N1, it would be necessary to cull
wild birds and poultry in affected areas. Perlman felt that
the scale of reported wild bird culling in Russia was an
ineffective method of disease prevention and control, due to
the way the virus mutates, making it difficult to predict the
impact on birds, domestic animals and livestock and humans
residing in affecting areas.
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KURTZER
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