One Million Bird Flu Tests Are Ready in the US

As the bird flu outbreak in dairy cattle is expanding, health officials say they have one million tests ready, KFF reports.

Three human cases of bird flu tied to the ongoing outbreak in cattle have been reported in the United States since 2022. Although all patients were dairy farm workers and only had a mild disease, the growing number of human cases sparked concern about the new pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say risk assessment for the general public in the United States hasn't changed because all three sporadic cases had direct contact with infected cows.

The agency said the U.S. has been preparing for bird flu outbreaks for more than 20 years, and the situation is very different from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when tests, treatments, and vaccines were unavailable.

Thus far, only about 45 people across the country have been tested for bird flu. The CDC principal deputy director, Nirav Shah, told KFF about the plans to expand testing efforts.


The agency has approximately one million bird flu tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), distributed across 100 public health labs in states. About 1.2 million more tests are expected to come in the next two months.

However, experts interviewed by KFF said that the CDC and public health labs aren't generally where doctors order tests.

They said the CDC and the FDA are not moving fast enough to grant bird flu testing authorization for clinical laboratories run by companies and universities that normally test for infectious diseases.

Meanwhile, the outbreak continues to grow, with at least 114 herds infected in 12 states.

Experts say ample testing is crucial as the outbreak continues. Identifying infected individuals would allow providing them treatment quickly, as bird flu has a mortality rate of about 50%. Although the disease can be treated with Tamiflu, a common flu treatment, it only works when given soon after symptoms start.

Moreover, while there is no evidence that the virus is spreading among people, this may change in the coming months. In this case, testing efforts must be ramped up.


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