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Viewing cable 09REYKJAVIK170, ICELAND'S PLANS TO COMBAT H1N1 VIRUS THIS WINTER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09REYKJAVIK170 2009-09-28 17:05 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXYZ0005
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRK #0170 2711707
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281707Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4175
INFO RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0384
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0156
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000170 
 
STATE FOR OES/IHB AND EUR/NB 
COPENHAGEN FOR ESTH HUB 
LONDON FOR J.SILVA 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KFLU AMED PREL TBIO IC
SUBJECT:  ICELAND'S PLANS TO COMBAT H1N1 VIRUS THIS WINTER 
 
REF: REYKJAVIK 97 
 
1. (U) Summary: The strain of the H1N1 influenza virus present in 
Iceland has been milder than that experienced in other countries, 
and only one person has been hospitalized with the illness earlier 
this year.  Occurrences of H1N1 in Iceland have been on the decline 
recently.  However, Iceland's Chief Epidemiologist predicts the 
influenza virus will hit hard in December or January, Iceland's peak 
flu season months.  Iceland will administer vaccinations to three 
target groups beginning in October, once vaccine supplies arrive in 
country.  End summary. 
 
2. (U) The first case of H1N1 in Iceland, an individual who had 
recently returned from New York, was announced on May 26.  According 
to the Directorate of Health, as of September 25, 199 cases of the 
H1N1 virus were confirmed in Iceland, 107 males and 92 females. 
However, the Health Directorate, in June, began diagnosing many 
cases based solely upon symptoms exhibited rather than upon medical 
tests.  As a result 1,264 cases of H1N1-like illness were diagnosed 
but not confirmed between June 29 and September 1.  Only one person 
was hospitalized for a short period of time and there have been no 
deaths as a result of the virus.  Haraldur Briem, Iceland's Chief 
Epidemiologist told EmbOff there are currently no cases of serious 
illness due to the H1N1 virus in Iceland at this time. 
 
3. (U) Briem told EmbOff that he expects the H1N1 vaccine to arrive 
in Iceland in the beginning of October.  Icelandic health 
authorities have purchased 300,000 doses of the vaccine, which will 
be delivered in four shipments.  The last shipment is expected to 
arrive in Iceland at the beginning of January 2010.  Vaccinations 
will be performed only at health care centers and hospitals.  The 
recent discovery that the vaccine might only need to be administered 
once means that almost all Icelanders (pop. 320,000) could be 
vaccinated. 
 
4. (U) The H1N1 vaccine, which will be provided free of charge to 
Icelandic residents, will be administered to three target groups in 
accordance with WHO recommendations.  Group I consists of health 
care workers, caretakers in nursing homes and homes for disabled 
people, patients with specified underlying diseases, pregnant women, 
policemen, firemen, rescue workers and paramedics.  Group II, 
comprised of all individuals between six months and 18 years of age, 
will be offered vaccinations in the beginning of November.  The 
remaining vaccine supply will then be offered to Group III, all 
other residents in Iceland. 
 
5. (U) According to Briem, individuals in Group I will be vaccinated 
first, beginning in October, and revaccinated later if needed.  Once 
Group I has been vaccinated, those in Group II will be able to make 
an appointment within a specified timeframe.  At the end of that 
period, Group III will be able to make an appointment for 
vaccination.  Briem said the schools will most likely try to 
schedule group appointments.  Authorities will encourage people to 
get the vaccine, but it is not mandatory.  The government has 
already distributed informational posters and hand sanitizers as 
part of its public awareness campaign. 
 
6. (U) Iceland adopted the WHO's declaration of H1N1 as a pandemic 
in the beginning of August, despite the mild nature of the symptoms, 
because the Chief Epidemiologist stated that the flu was thought to 
be spreading faster in comparison with the other Nordic countries. 
Despite the declaration, however, no restrictions were placed on 
schools or public gatherings, nor were additional resources made 
available to address the issue.  Schools, which started in late 
August and early September, have not reported an increase of H1N1 
virus cases this year and have operated on normal basis.  Iceland 
has two influenza seasons.  The first period runs through October, 
while the second period peaks in January or February.  Chief 
Epidemiologist Briem told EmbOff that it is very likely that the 
second wave of the H1N1 virus will appear after the New Year. 
 
7. (U) Comment: The Icelandic government is taking seriously the 
threat of another H1N1 outbreak in Iceland and making an effort to 
prepare for its possible recurrence.  Recent budget cuts due to the 
economic crisis should have little impact on the government's 
ability to address the issue, as the vaccines will have been 
administered before any layoffs would take effect.  However, as the 
vaccinations are voluntary and Iceland can be a popular tourist 
destination even in the winter, the reemergence of an H1N1 outbreak 
is expected.  End comment. 
WATSON