64600 5/18/2006 17:00 06BUCHAREST834 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY VZCZCXRO9816 OO RUEHAST DE RUEHBM #0834/01 1381700 ZNR UUUUU ZZH O 181700Z MAY 06 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4457 INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC RUEHRC/USDA WASHDC RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000834
STATE FOR EUR/NCE - WSILKWORTH AND CA/OCS/ACS-SSCHMIERER NSC FOR DAMON WILSON
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: KFLU, TBIO, PREL, EAID, CASC, WHO, RO SUBJECT: AVIAN INFLUENZA EXPLODES ACROSS SEVEN ROMANIAN COUNTIES
REF: A) BUCHAREST 811; B) BUCHAREST 523; C) BUCHAREST 310;
D) BUCHAREST 79; E) 05 BUCHAREST 2302; F) 05 BUCHAREST 2239; G) 05 BUCHAREST 2205, H) 05 BUCHAREST 2185; I) 05 BUCHAREST 2177, J) 05 BUCHAREST 2152
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1. (SBU) Romania's Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed new cases of H5N1 Avian Influenza (AI) in three counties and is testing suspected outbreaks in four more. The cases all are clustered in central Romania, where no previous cases had occurred. Six suspected cases of human AI have tested negative in rapid testing, though they remain open until more thorough test results are in. Contaminated poultry meat is being removed from retail stores from Timisoara on the western border to Constanta on the Black Sea coast. The press reports that poultry sales have dropped by 80 percent. Criminal indictments are being drawn up for the administrators of the two commercial farms that appear to be the source of these new outbreaks. Corruption among veterinary inspectors and local officials may have also contributed to the crisis. Romanian Minister of Agriculture Flutur has asked for a budget increase to cope with this most recent crisis. End Summary.
Avian Flu Explodes Across Seven Counties
2. (U) Since the first new case of H5N1 was discovered in Brasov County in Transylvania on Friday, May 12, it appears as if AI has exploded across the country. The National Institute for Animal Diagnosis and Health has confirmed H5N1 in three counties and is testing suspected cases in these and four more counties. All seven counties are contiguous, in central Romania. None had seen cases of AI before. There are now eight confirmed H5N1 cases in Brasov County, including the two commercial farms, Drakom Silva and Pati Prod; and backyard farms in Hurez, Fagaras, Feldioara de Ucea, Soars, Dumbravita and Vistea de Jos. One backyard farm outbreak has been confirmed in Sita Buzaului in Covasna County. Another backyard case has been confirmed in Bolotest in Vrancea County.
3. (U) In addition, tests are being run on 29 suspected cases in six counties: 19 localities in Brasov County; one in Buzau County; three in Bacau County; one in Vrancea County; one in Sibiu County; and four in Valcea County. All suspected cases are traced to distributors who sold live poultry to individual backyard farmers.
Poultry Recalled Across the Country
4. (U) Processed poultry meat from the Codlea (Brasov) slaughterhouse is being recalled from retailers in Bucharest and nine other counties: Brasov, Timisoara, Sibiu, Vrancea, Valcea, Constanta, Covasna, Buzau, and Prahova. While authorities initially projected 11 tons of potentially contaminated meat, they have dramatically increased the number to 342 tons, corresponding with production in the Codlea industrial zone from May 1-13, 2006. Of this, authorities claim that they have so far been able to recall 325 tons of poultry from supermarkets and warehouses, representing 95 percent of the total.
5. (U) The Ministries of Agriculture and Health continue to reassure the public that the poultry recall is an added precautionary measure since the virus, if present, would be killed if the meat is cooked to at least 70 degrees Celsius. Local media continue to run public service announcements on the proper ways to handle and cook poultry products.
6. (U) Minister Flutur labeled the involvement of some officials in this sudden outbreak of AI as "criminally irresponsible." He dismissed the President and Vice President of the national Veterinary Health Authority the night of May 16. The Director of the Brasov Health Veterinary Directorate resigned the same day, citing medical reasons.
7. (U) Prosecutors have interviewed the administrators of the two commercial farms that appear to be "ground zero" for the widespread outbreak. Prime Minister Tariceanu has also called for administrative and criminal investigations and prosecutions for all those involved in violating the law and
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contaminating the food supply.
8. (U) Authorities have installed quarantines around all confirmed and suspected locations. The public has been advised to avoid quarantined areas and traffic is being routed around hotspots. Residents in some areas have objected to strict "code red" quarantine measures, complaining that they are not allowed to even leave the area to buy food.
9. (U) Farm workers were under strict quarantine on the two commercial farms, although the press reported that six employees escaped from the Drakom farm. Authorities have asked them to voluntarily return so as not to risk their health or that of the public.
10. (U) Minister Flutur has requested that "crisis committees" be organized in each affected county to include the veterinary authorities as well as officials in the agriculture and interior ministries. These committees are charged with 24 hour protection of the public and constant communication with national authorities on the status of the situation. Flutur also requested an emergency budget supplement to deal with the crisis.
SUSPECTED HUMAN CASES PROVE NEGATIVE
11. (U) Six suspected cases of human AI were brought to Bucharest's infectious disease hospital. The cases included a mother and two siblings and another infant from Codlea, a woman who had recently visited her parents in the town, and a street person from Bucharest. All six cases tested negative under rapid tests, but are still considered open until more thorough tests are conducted.
12. (SBU) The rapid explosion o reports of H5N1 over a seven county area is disurbing, more so because each report appears to oiginate from the same source. Accompanying reports of malfeasance, fraud and irresponsibility on the part of animal health officials and commercial poultry farms have added to the jitters of Romanian consumers. Romanian authorities will have an up-hill task to restore confidence in their ability to contain AI, both among the Romanian public and officials in Brussels following Romania's progress towards EU accession. Taubman