Cablegate: Cairo Avian Influenza Working Group (Aiwg) Update

Published: Sun 11 Dec 2005 03:06 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. STATE 202102
B. STATE 153802
C. STATE 181885
D. STATE 183776
E. CAIRO 07552
F. CAIRO 08073
This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please handle
1. (U) Summary: Embassy Cairo's Avian Influenza Working
Group (AIWG) met November 8 to review Mission preparedness
and interactions of Mission organizations with the Government
of Egypt (GOE) on AI prevention. Although surveillance has
detected no H5N1 in Egypt, post continues to work on
preparedness, particularly as outlined in reftel A. Mission
interactions with the GOE have improved Egypt's preparedness
as well, and Mission agencies continue to assist the GOE's
efforts to develop a response capability. End summary.
Consular Preparedness
2. (SBU) Cairo's Avian Influenza Working Group (AIWG) met
November 8 to review the main points of reftel A on Mission
preparedness and determined the following: There is no
Tamiflu available in Egypt for private US citizens in the
event of an AI outbreak in Egypt; regular flu vaccine is
available in Egypt on the market; clinical care in Egypt is
not adequate to deal with an AI outbreak.
3. (SBU) In regard to communicating with the unofficial
American community, the AIWG considered the logistical
problems presented by a Town Hall meeting, which would
require a venue with a large audience capacity, and favored
the use of a warden message as an alternative. The message
will discuss what the USG can and cannot do for American
citizens, and emphasize that the USG is working with the GOE
to respond to the AI threat. Embassy has posted an AI Fact
Sheet on its website and has drawn attention to the existence
of the fact sheet in an unrelated warden message. There
have also been inquiries about obtaining flu vaccine from the
Embassy. Certain measures still need to be addressed,
including quarantine measures, questions about air transport,
and American companies' contingency plans. These issues will
be discussed at the next AIWG and EAC meetings.
4. (SBU) The RMO briefed the AIWG on recent activities of
the Medical Unit. The Medical Unit has discussed possible
funding for AI needs with other organizations. The AIWG also
agreed to develop drawdowns and tripwires for discussion at
post's next EAC meeting. RMO also noted that the Mission
needs training on the use of protective gear.
Recent Mission-GOE Interactions
5. (SBU) GOE invited NAMRU-3 representatives to attend a GOE
interministerial meeting November 1, which was attended by
representatives from Ministries of Health (MOH), Agriculture
(MOA), Environment, Commerce, Aviation, Foreign Affairs
(MFA), and WHO. NAMRU reported that the purpose of the
meeting appeared to be solely to show that the government is
united and doing something; however, it is not clear that GOE
is prepared to respond to AI effectively at this point.
6. (SBU) ECPO Counselor briefed the MFA the same day on
USG's AI concerns and activities, and discussed the
interministerial meeting that took place earlier that day.
MFA representatives reported that Dr. Magda Rakha,
Undersecretary at the MOH, is the GOE AI POC, and that GOE
has drafted a National Plan to respond to AI. Embassy later
obtained a copy of the draft plan.
USAID/APHIS Providing Training to GOE
7. (SBU) USAID and APHIS have been working together to
provide funding (USAID) and expertise (APHIS) for USG
activities supporting GOE efforts to combat AI. USAID is
reviewing funding for four requests from the GOE: Upgrading
of labs to BLS-3 status (biosafety); purchase of lab
supplies; equipping and training mobile rapid response
teams, and training for Egypt's Veterinary Service (VS).
USAID is funding the MOH's program to enhance the capacity of
17 Mobile Rapid Response Teams through an on-going grant.
The mobile units will include both veterinary and medical
personnel and will have the capacity to rapidly enter any
suspected outbreak area and manage critical aspects of
outbreak control, e.g., testing, quarantine, communications,
community mobilization. National level training assisted by
NAMRU-3 begins on November 19th.
8. (SBU) APHIS reports that veterinary diagnostics and
surveillance remain weak points in the GOE's ability to
respond to an AI outbreak. It is not clear that GOE has the
capability to respond rapidly, that it can respond to both
animal and human contagion, and is able to communicate
effectively between ministries in order to mount a timely
emergency response. The VS and the MOH have not communicated
effectively to date on AI matters. To assist with this
issue, APHIS recently provided USAID-funded training in the
US for representatives from the Veterinary Service.
9. (U) UNDP invited USAID, WHO, NAMRU & APHIS to brief a
joint meeting with other UN agencies, at a date to be
determined. In addition, APHIS may request funding
assistance from the UN agencies for regional training for
veterinary diagnosticians, which USAID cannot fund.
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NAMRU-3 Working with GOE, WHO, Saudi Arabia on AI
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10. (SBU) NAMRU-3 has been actively providing health
surveillance in Egypt and the region for a number of years,
and continues to work effectively with the GOE on wild bird
surveillance and specimen testing. To date, the surveillance
has detected no H5N1 in Egypt. NAMRU-3 representatives
attended a regional regional WHO meeting November 29-30.
NAMRU-3 is also working with local schools to develop AI
response plans. Saudi Arabia requested assistance from
NAMRU-3 regarding its concerns that the Hajj could be
vulnerable to an AI outbreak. Public Affairs is working on
publicity that focuses on NAMRU-3's work with the GOE on
surveillance and detection of AI, with the message that
American and Egyptians are working shoulder-to-shoulder with
high technology to protect the people of Egypt.
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