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Stackyard News Sep 06

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Health Protection Agency develops single test for H5 avian and seasonal flu

Delegates on the second day of the Health Protection Agency's annual conference will learn about updated diagnostic tests developed to simultaneously detect the avian influenza H5 or seasonal human flu virus.


As awareness regarding avian flu increases in the UK and flu season starts, increasing numbers of ‘possible' human cases, may be reported to the Agency from GPs, A&E and other healthcare settings and it is essential to quickly rule out H5.

The updated tests based on detection of viral genetic material, called a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) assay ensures results can be given to patients quickly and any necessary treatment or public health actions can be taken. The test is available to all Agency laboratories and will be used for flu surveillance this coming winter.

Dr Martin Curran, who developed the test for the Agency said, “Although the risk of someone returning to the UK with H5 is quite small, it is crucial that we have tests available in case we do see a suspect case. The added bonus is that this test can also provide laboratories with information on seasonal flu strains, which is essential to our knowledge of how flu is circulating in the community.”

“The test was used in the recent outbreak of avian flu in Norfolk where we identified a poultry worker suffering from conjunctivitis caused by an avian virus.”

Professor Pat Troop , Chief Executive of the Agency said "We do not expect to see many suspect cases of avian flu this winter; however this ability to test more efficiently for both infections is reassuring. Most people tested for flu like symptoms; will be suffering from regular seasonal flu. However, if the pandemic alert levels were to change or we had an outbreak of avian flu in the UK , it's vital that we have the capacity to respond as effectively as possible. “

link Caucasus, Balkans at high risk for deadly H5N1 virus
link Both endemic and new virus strains to blame for bird flu recurrence in Asia
link Avian flu: global sharing of virus samples
link Avian Influenza found on Norfolk chicken farm

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