07TBILISI817, GOG LOOKS TO IMPROVE AI COOPERATION WITH ABKHAZIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI817 2007-04-13 12:59 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4183
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0817/01 1031259
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 131259Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6060
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000817 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL TBIO GG
SUBJECT: GOG LOOKS TO IMPROVE AI COOPERATION WITH ABKHAZIA 
 
1.  Summary:  On March 23, Russian and Georgian press reports 
claimed an Avian Influenza (AI) outbreak had occurred in 
Abkhazia.  On March 28, Deputy Minister of Health Levan 
Jugeli told Poloff that the GoG was ready at any time to work 
with the Abkhaz de-facto officials on AI or other health 
issues, although he added that cooperation had decreased 
somewhat recently.  He said that the GoG is ready to send 500 
USAID-provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) suits to 
Abkhazia, and is also willing to establish a satellite lab in 
Abkhazia and send lab specialists to help collect specimen 
samples for diagnosis.  He said he would ask State Minister 
for Conflict Resolution, Merab Antadze, to raise the Georgian 
offer of cooperation between their health and veterinary 
departments with the Abkhaz.  He also said that the GoG has 
purchased 100,000 units of Tamiflu, new ventilators for 
hospitals, and is updating its AI action plan.  On April 4, 
Poloff met with Abkhaz de-facto minister of health Zurab 
Marshanya to raise the issue of cooperation between Georgia 
and Abkhazia on AI and to verify whether there was an 
outbreak of AI in birds in Abkhazia.  Marshanya said that the 
Abkhaz have a governmental commission responsible for 
investigating all suspected cases of AI and their 
investigation found no evidence of AI.  United Nations 
Observer Mission to Georgia (UNOMIG) doctors said they agreed 
with the results of the investigation, although they noted 
that it was not in their mandate to investigate possible AI 
cases.  Marshanya said he would take into consideration the 
Georgian proposals for assistance and cooperation on 
AI-related issues.  End Summary. 
 
GoG upgrading preparedness plan, seeks cooperation with Abkhaz 
--------------------------------------------- ----------------- 
 
2.  On March 28, DM Jugeli told Poloff that the GoG was ready 
to cooperate with the Abkhaz de-facto health officials to 
help them prepare for potential outbreaks of AI.  Jugeli said 
that they have 500 USAID-provided PPEs and hundreds of AI 
prevention brochures in Abkhaz and Russian that they are 
ready to give the Abkhaz.  He said the Ministry of Health can 
also send laboratory specialists and sample collectors, and 
can even establish a satellite laboratory in Abkhazia if the 
Abkhaz are willing.  He expressed his willingness to talk 
with de-facto health and agriculture officials to discuss AI 
monitoring plans as well, and said he would ask State 
Minister Antadze to raise this with the Abkhaz.  Currently, 
he said, the GoG is updating its AI preparedness plan that 
will further elaborate the responsibilities of each Ministry 
and department in the event of an AI outbreak.  He said the 
GoG has purchased new ventilators with money from the World 
Bank and has a stockpile of 100,000 treatment courses of 
Tamiflu.  He said they also plan to purchase stocks of 
regular flu vaccine. 
 
Abkhaz claim prevention measures in place, no truth to report 
--------------------------------------------- ---------------- 
 
3.  De-facto minister of health Marshanya told Poloff on 
April 4 that the Abkhaz have a working governmental 
commission, led by the de-facto deputy prime minister, that 
monitors AI and enforces preventative measures.  He said 
Abkhazia has several rapid reaction groups that respond to 
reports of bird die-offs in the region, and quickly 
quarantine suspect areas.  When suspect birds are found, he 
said, they are sent to a lab in Krasnodar, Russia, for 
testing.  Following recent AI outbreaks in birds in Russia, 
Abkhazia has stopped all poultry imports from Russia and 
banned the hunting of wild birds, he said.  Poloff delivered 
several of the GoG-produced AI prevention brochures in Abkhaz 
and Russian to Marshanya, and outlined the steps the GoG was 
willing to take to increase Georgian-Abkhaz cooperation on 
AI.  Marshanya thanked Poloff for the brochures and the 
message and said he would think about it. 
 
4.  During the meeting, Marshanya also said there was no 
truth to the March 23 report of an AI outbreak in birds north 
of Gaudauta, calling the report "propaganda designed to keep 
tourists away."  (Comment:  Marshanya's statement is 
plausible.  The report was released - only in Russian - by a 
California-based medical company called Ramaz Mitaishvili 
Global Health.  Mitaishvili is an Abkhaz-born Georgian who 
fled Sukhumi during the war, and based on his biography and 
other articles on his website, has a strong anti-Abkhaz bent. 
 End Comment).  He said that the village was investigated and 
the birds tested negative for AI.  He said that there have 
been similar reports in the past, usually from the Gali 
region of Abkhazia, and all have proven false.  UNOMIG's 
medical staff, in a separate meeting with Poloff, said that 
while monitoring AI was not in their mandate, they 
nevertheless stay in close contact with the de-facto 
officials and CIS peacekeepers on this issue.  They said that 
there was no evidence to support the reports' claims of an AI 
outbreak. 
 
 
TBILISI 00000817  002 OF 002 
 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
5.  The GoG continues to take appropriate steps toward 
strengthening its AI prevention program, and remains vigilant 
against future outbreaks.  Cooperation with the Abkhaz 
de-facto officials remains the weak link in Georgia's 
preparedness and prevention programs.  Despite their 
assurances to the contrary, it is not clear how well the 
Abkhaz could respond to an outbreak of AI in either birds or 
humans.  Closer coordination between the GoG and the Abkhaz 
on prevention measures, information exchange and technical 
assistance would go a long way toward ensuring that any 
future outbreak of AI would be quickly identified and 
contained.  Such cooperation would also help the GoG limit 
the spread of rumors and unconfirmed reports of AI in 
Abkhazia.  We will continue to encourage both sides to work 
together. 
 
 
TEFFT

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