In an effort to prepare for an avian flu epidemic, the FDA announced it has cleared a new, more rapid test for avian influenza A virus.
The test, which is called AVantage A/H5N1 Flu Test, detects influenza A/H5N1 in throat or nose swabs collected from patients who have flu-like symptoms in less than 40 minutes.
Previous FDA-approved tests took three to four hours to produce results.
"This test is an important tool to help quickly identify emerging influenza A/H5N1 infections and reduce exposure to large populations," says Dr Daniel G. Schultz, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
"The clearance of this test represents a major step toward protecting the public from the threat of pandemic flu," he adds.
According to the CDC, the H5N1 subtype virus – which is found mostly in birds – has caused the largest number of detected cases of serious disease and death among avian influenza viruses that have infected humans.
The most challenging aspect in the fight against H5N1 lies in its capacity to quickly mutate and spread, which may lead to an influenza pandemic.
Thus far, global health authorities have confirmed 412 human cases of bird flu, almost all in Asia and northern Africa.
It has not yet been detected in the Americas, according to the FDA.