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Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) (cont.)

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How is bird flu diagnosed?

Routine tests for human influenza A will be positive in patients with bird flu but are not specific for the avian virus. To make a specific diagnosis of bird flu, specialized tests are needed. In the United States, local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide access to the specialized testing. The virus can be detected in sputum by several methods, including culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Culture should be done in laboratories that have an appropriate biosafety certification. PCR detects nucleic acid from the influenza A virus. Specialized PCR testing is available in reference laboratories to identify avian strains; the CDC is a primary source for available tests for the newest strains of bird flu.

During and after infection with bird flu, the body makes antibodies against the virus. Blood tests can detect these antibodies, but this requires one sample at the onset of disease and another sample several weeks later. Thus, results are not available until the patient has recovered or died.

What is the treatment for bird flu?

Because of the small number of human cases, it has not been possible to conduct rigorous treatment trials for bird flu. The current recommendation from the World Health Organization is to use an antiviral medication called oseltamivir (Tamiflu). In September 2011, the CDC stated the following: "Two other antiviral medications, oseltamivir and zanamivir (Relenza), would probably work to treat influenza caused by H5N1 virus, but additional studies still need to be done to demonstrate their effectiveness." Patients often need intensive supportive care. It is too early to say if antivirals are effective against H7N9 bird flu.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/5/2013

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/avian_influenza_bird_flu/article.htm

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