Scientists in the UK have devised two tests for the diagnosis of bird flu in people. The first test can identify infection in a person within hours, and uses the same technique used to detect severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The second test can reveal whether people have been exposed to the bird flu virus by measuring antibodies produced by their immune system.
The researchers from the Health Protection Agency announced their news at the agency's annual conference, yesterday (15 September). Bird flu has killed at least 25 people in South-East Asia this year, and new cases have been reported in Malaysia and Thailand in the past week.
Also presented at the conference were new models of disease spread that suggest that airport screening and travel restrictions would do little to prevent epidemics of bird flu or SARS because of the viruses' long incubation periods. Instead, local use of drugs and vaccines would be most effective, say the researchers.