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Limited Access to Bird Flu Tests Raises Questions

Limited Access to Bird Flu Tests Raises Questions

United States: Abraar Karan, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford University, has recently observed a number of patients with fever, runny noses, and itchy eyes. These signs may indicate a cold, allergies, or COVID. This year, avian flu is another possibility, but most doctors are unable to confirm it.

Diverse Symptoms Pose Testing Challenges

He and other academics caution that if the government does not get ready to increase H5N1 bird flu testing, the country may be unprepared for another epidemic.

Lack of Preparedness Raises Concerns

Former presidential fellow for the coronavirus response, Deborah Birx, stated on CNN on June 4 that” we’re making the same miscalculations moment that we made with Covid.”

The H5N1 avian flu contagion would have to travel from person to person in order to come a epidemic. Testing people is the stylish fashion to cover that possibility.

Testing Constraints and Oversight Challenges

From a scientific standpoint, the virus may be found in a lot of diagnostic labs. However, obstacles to swiftly increasing testing’s general availability include bureaucracy, billing concerns, and low funding. As of right now, only the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s avian flu test—which is limited to individuals who deal directly with livestock—has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Surveillance Gaps on Farms

As for whether this is contained on farms, Helen Chu, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Washington in Seattle, stated, “It’s important to know if this is contained on farms, but we have no information because we aren’t looking.” In 2020, her wider testing of people revealed the spread of Covid.

There may be a bigger number of sick farmworkers than previously thought based on reports of unconfirmed cases and a maternity worker who experienced flu-like symptoms in Texas areas where H5N1 epidemics have affected cattle. Furthermore, because the minor symptoms of those who tested positive—a cough and irritation of the eyes without a fever—infected individuals might not bother seeking medical attention and, as a result, would not be tested.

Concerns Over Testing Access and Outreach

Researchers are concerned about a lack of outreach and incentives to encourage testing among persons with low job security and access to healthcare, despite the fact that the CDC has requested farmworkers with flu symptoms to get tested. Furthermore, the government would probably overlook signs of a wider spread if it limited its tests to dairy farms.

Parallel with COVID-19 Testing Challenges

Benjamin Pinsky, the medical director of Stanford University’s clinical virology laboratory, stated, “It’s hard not to compare this to Covid, where early on we only tested people who had travelled.” “We were vulnerable to not realising right away that it was spreading throughout the community because of that.”

The United States’ implementation of testing was disastrously sluggish in the early months of COVID-19. The CDC initially insisted on developing and relying on its own test, even though other organisations had developed their own utilising fundamental molecular biology techniques and the World Health Organisation had validated a test. The first version that was sent to the state health laboratories was inoperable, which caused more delays.

The FDA also trailed. It wasn’t until late February 2020 that testing from diagnostic labs outside of the CDC were approved.

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