United States: As envisaged, it has been said that it has been about three months since the US government announced an outbreak of the bird flu virus on dairy farms. 

World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned with it as a virus that can give rise to a pandemic, but to date, the United States, a country that has the facilities and resources to test, has only conducted forty-five tests across the entire country. 

More about the news 

As Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health, said, “We’re flying blind,” as CBS News reported. 

Because so little testing has been done, she explained, it is hard even to estimate the number of farm workers who have been ill with COVID or the severity of the disease

Experts Criticize US Response to Bird Flu Outbreak. Credit | Reuters
Experts Criticize US Response to Bird Flu Outbreak. Credit | Reuters

The only thing that separates a country from facing another round of a pandemic is having the test and not using it to potentially realize that the virus is starting to spread between humans. 

According to the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nirav Shah said, “We’d like to be doing more testing. There’s no doubt about that.” 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that the bird flu tests conducted by the CDC are the only ones authorized by the agency for use right now. 

Moreover, as per Shah, the agency has noted that it has distributed these tests to around 100 public health labs in states. 

“We’ve got roughly a million available now,” he said, “and expect 1.2 million more in the next two months,” Shah added. 

What more have the experts stated? 

But Nuzzo and other researchers are concerned because the CDC and public health labs aren’t usually the players that physicians use for ordering tests. 

Generally, it is believed that the job is being done by one of the large clinical laboratories owned by a company or a university, which does not have the necessary permission for bird flu testing

Continuous increase of the outbreak with the latest information pointing to at least 114 herds infected in 12 states as of June 18 reveals that the CDC and particularly the FDA are still not eager to shed off the obstacles that prevent clinical labs from testing. 

One of the most egregious examples was when Neelyx Labs waited over a month for a response to a query put on hold. 

According to Alex Greninger, assistant director of the University of Washington Medicine Clinical Virology Laboratory, “Clinical labs are part of the nation’s public health system,” and, “Pull us into the game. We’re stuck on the bench,” as CBS News reported. 

Moreover, the CDC identified the necessity of having clinical labs, as mentioned in a memo on June 10. 

The CDC stated, “The limited availability and accessibility of diagnostic tests for Influenza A(H5) poses several pain points,” as it also pointed to the shortage of tests if there is a spike in demand. 

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