Viewing cable 06VILNIUS223
Title: LITHUANIA'S AI PREPAREDNESS: IS FOUR PERCENT ENOUGH?

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06VILNIUS2232006-03-03 11:39:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
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 VILNIUS 000223 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB, EUR/PGI, AND OES/IHA 
WARSAW FOR FAS (CRUSH) AND (EPORTER) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: TBIO AMED EAGR SOCI PGOV KFLU LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA'S AI PREPAREDNESS:  IS FOUR PERCENT ENOUGH? 
 
REF:  05 Vilnius 1239 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  The GOL continues to plan for the arrival of 
avian influenza (AI) virus in Lithuania, but budgetary constraints 
may hinder preparations, particularly the acquisition of antiviral 
medication.  The Government issued orders requiring owners to 
sequester domestic birds indoors and prohibiting routine scientific 
work that involves handling wild birds.  The GOL currently has 
stockpiles of antiviral medication to treat two percent of the 
population and expects to double this stockpile before the end of 
March, falling short of its goal of 30 percent coverage.  It has not 
identified funds that will allow health authorities to purchase 
additional antiviral medication.  The Defense Ministry has also 
confirmed publicly that, in the event of an outbreak, it expects to 
assist other agencies to deal with contamination and to restrict 
movement of people.  END SUMMARY. 
 
NO AI YET 
--------- 
 
¶2. (U) The National Veterinary Laboratory (NVL) has examined 204 
dead birds found in Lithuania since the beginning of January, but 
has not yet identified any cases of AI.  The State Food and 
Veterinary Service (SFVS) continues to urge people to inform SFVS if 
they find dead birds and to avoid contact with the animals. 
Lithuania does not have the capability to subtype viruses.  If the 
NVL identifies a virus that it believes to be H5N1, it will need to 
send a sample to an EU reference laboratory, most likely in Germany, 
for confirmation. 
 
NEW RESTRICTIONS ON HANDLING FOWL 
--------------------------------- 
 
¶3. (U) The confirmation of the H5N1 virus in two dead swans found on 
the northern German island of Rugen in the Baltic Sea prompted the 
GOL to issue two orders on February 20, 2006: 
 
-- The State Food and Veterinary Service imposed a ban on keeping 
birds outdoors.  This ban expires on May 20.  Those who flout the 
ban face a fine of up to LTL 5,000 (USD 1,800) and/or confiscation 
of birds. 
 
-- The Environment Ministry imposed a ban on banding birds for 
identification purposes.  The Ministry imposed this preventive 
measure to limit human contact with birds that may have come into 
contact with H5N1 during their annual migration.  This ban expires 
on June 1. 
 
ONLY ENOUGH MEDICINE FOR A FEW 
------------------------------ 
 
¶4. (SBU) The GOL's emergency action plan for pandemic influenza 
calls on the Ministry of Health to stock enough antiviral medication 
to treat 30 percent of the population The Health Emergency Situation 
Center (HESC) has stockpiled enough of the antiviral medication 
Remantadin to treat approximately two percent of Lithuania's 
population of about 3.4 million.  The HESC has also ordered a 
roughly equivalent amount of Tamiflu, which should arrive before the 
end of March. 
 
¶5. (SBU).  HESC Deputy Chief Egle Burbiene told us on February 23 
that the Government allocated for 2006 LTL 1 million (USD 360,0000) 
for antiviral drugs, has already spent these funds, and will not be 
able to buy additional medicine without supplemental funding. 
Burbiene noted that the GOL's action plan does not specify a target 
date for acquiring large stocks of medicine and the HESC was, 
therefore, not officially behind schedule.  Burbiene told us that 
she is satisfied with the size of the current stockpile and 
confident that the HESC will be able to get both the funding and 
medicine when it decides it is necessary to do so. 
 
¶6. (SBU) Burbiene said that the HESC does not have a clearly defined 
set of tripwires that will automatically trigger the HESC to request 
additional funding for antiviral medication.  However, she 
identified for us a series of tripwire-like criteria that she said 
will cause HESC to consider making such a request: 
 
-- avian flu cases appear in Lithuania or neighboring countries; 
-- massive outbreaks in other European countries appear as spring 
approaches; 
-- the WHO declares a level IV pandemic threat for Lithuania 
(currently at level III); or 
-- the EU directs member states to take additional actions. 
 
MINISTRY OF DEFENSE ASSURES COOPERATION, ASSISTANCE 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
¶7. (U) Defense Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, in an interview on 
February 21, told reporters that Lithuanian armed forces will assist 
the country's other services to help contain any AI outbreak. 
Kirkilas said that, in the event of an outbreak, troops would help 
collect and dispose of dead birds and secure the outbreak area.  He 
also said that soldiers have been equipped with protective gear, 
including protective suits, masks, and disinfection equipment. 
 
NO PLANS FOR BIRD VACCINATIONS 
------------------------------ 
 
¶8. (U) SFVS Deputy Director Darius Remeika told us on February 27 
the GOL currently has no plans to vaccinate birds.  He added, 
however, that the SFVS may reconsider this position if the AI 
situation in Europe worsens or if the EU issues directives on the 
matter.  SFVS Director Kazimieras Lukauskas said on television last 
week that the SFVS has already identified several companies that can 
provide the vaccine.  He also said that, if the GOL decides to 
allocate funds for poultry vaccinations, it will not disclose the 
amount of the authorization to avoid manipulation of the vaccine's 
market price. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶9. (SBU) The GOL continues to take the AI threat seriously, and the 
HESC and SFVS are well versed on the latest AI developments.  We 
have no way to assess the adequacy of the Government stockpiles of 
medication, but note that, to date, Lithuania is far from reaching 
its own goals for preparedness to protect the population at large 
from a disease that is probably not far at all from its borders. 
 
KELLY