Viewing cable 09VILNIUS455
Title: H1N1: LITHUANIA'S PREPARATION FOR PANDEMIC LACKS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS4552009-08-26 11:08:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO1439
PP RUEHAG RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLZ RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHVL #0455/01 2381108
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261108Z AUG 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3700
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000455 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (HHS ADDRESS ADDED) 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KFLU TBIO PREL ASEC LH
SUBJECT: H1N1: LITHUANIA'S PREPARATION FOR PANDEMIC LACKS 
URGENCY 
 
VILNIUS 00000455  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  Health officials in Lithuania are in only 
the early stages of domestic planning for a possible H1N1 flu 
pandemic, but say that they are confident they will be 
prepared and protected should one occur.  As of August 21 
Lithuania has reported 47 confirmed H1N1 flu cases, none 
fatal, with a few new cases being reported each day, on 
average.  The Ministry of Health has asked for millions of 
additional dollars from the government budget to buy 
antiviral drugs and vaccine, but the GOL has yet to act on 
the request, and, in any case, is making severe budget cuts 
to deal with its financial crisis. The GOL does have an 
emergency-action plan that would go into effect should there 
be a pandemic, but such preparations likely would be 
insufficient to deal with a serious pandemic. Post's working 
group on H1N1 flu has met and reviewed the embassy's 
preparations for a pandemic.  End summary. 
 
¶2.  (U)  Nearly all of the 47 H1N1 cases in Lithuania so far 
have involved people who had recently returned from other 
countries or who have been in close contact with such 
travelers.  None of the cases have been fatal, only a few 
patients have required hospitalization, and most patients 
have already fully recovered. Greta Amasenkovaite, 
public-health specialist at the GOL's Center for Prevention 
and Control of Communicable Diseases, said she thought there 
were very few undetected H1N1 cases because of all the 
publicity that H1N1 flu had received. Anyone showing any flu 
symptoms, she said, has been scared enough to go see a 
doctor.  Viktorija Jasulaitiene, deputy director of the 
center, said she did not expect a large increase in the 
number of H1N1 patients this fall, because most cases so far 
have involved those who traveled abroad and the poor economic 
situation means "there are fewer visits abroad this year than 
in the past." 
 
¶3.  (U)  Jasulaitiene said the GOL was "doing a lot of 
prevention activities" through the media.  Asked for 
specifics, she said that her center and the Ministry of 
Health update their websites every day and have 
flu-prevention information on them.  Although government 
agencies did work with media when H1N1 was first reported in 
North America last spring, they have done little since then 
to produce or encourage public-service announcements or 
information on how to minimize the risk of flu. 
 
¶4.  (U)  Ministry of Health officials told us that they have 
participated in European and national flu pandemic exercises, 
and continue to refine the GOL's emergency action plan to 
deal with a flu pandemic.  The Ministry has been working with 
hospitals, health agencies, and local governments to help 
them develop plans on how to operate during an influenza 
pandemic.  But that planning has not passed the stage of 
requesting information from those entities and waiting for 
responses.  The ministry also has discussed the possibility 
of mass school closings with education officials, but said 
there were no concrete contingency plans on that front. 
There are no plans to teach schoolchildren behaviors to 
minimize transmission risk. 
 
¶5.  (U)  Health ministry officials told us that hospitals 
would be able to free up enough beds to accommodate H1N1 
patients should a pandemic hit, though they admit they don't 
yet have such data from hospitals.  A doctor at the main 
infectious-disease hospital in Vilnius said his hospital 
would be able to provide as many as 90 beds. (Vilnius has 
about 600,000 residents.)  But the doctor said that wouldn't 
be necessary, as there would be no pandemic.  The GOL does 
have an emergency-action plan that would be activated if 30 
percent of medical personnel and public-safety personnel such 
as police and firefighters were incapacitated. But the only 
element of the plan that health officials could readily 
describe was a provision that ensures high-risk groups and 
emergency-services and medical personnel would have top 
priority for flu vaccinations. 
 
¶6.  (U)  The Ministry of Health has requested 5 million LTL 
(just over 2 million USD) to increase its stockpile of 
antiviral drugs and 50 million LTL (just over 20 million USD) 
for enough flu vaccine to inoculate 30 percent of the 
population. Thus far, the government has not acted on those 
requests.  Because of the financial crisis, the GOL has been 
making drastic budget cuts in recent months.  Viktoras 
Meizis, head of the International Relations Department of the 
Health Ministry, said several countries, including Lithuania, 
have asked the European Commission to create a common 
stockpile of vaccine for smaller countries so that they 
wouldn't be shut out of the market by larger countries 
placing larger orders. 
 
VILNIUS 00000455  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
 
¶7.  (U)  Post convened a working group on August 19 to review 
preparedness for wider spread of the flu.  We have shared 
information with schools that have American-citizen students, 
and have reminded all Mission staffers of basic precautions 
to take to minimize risks of flu exposure. The working group, 
spearheaded by the medical office and the ESTH officer, 
continues to monitor the flu situation in Lithuania. 
 
¶8.  (SBU)  Comment:  Lithuania so far has not been hit nearly 
as hard by the H1N1 flu virus as some European countries, 
which is fortunate given that planning for a pandemic appears 
to be inadequate and lackadaisical.  Worse, the country's 
medical bureaucracy do not seem to think faster or more 
concentrated planning is needed. We will continue to monitor 
Lithuania,s preparations for a pandemic, encourage them to 
plan, and will seek ways to assist the GOL should the 
pandemic deepen here.  End comment. 
LEADER