H5n1 Avian Flu Testing

Because most of the initial bird flu symptoms are so similar to those of the regular flu, more than anecdotal evidence is necessary to come to a diagnosis. To definitively diagnose bird flu, doctors use a variety of tests. Most of them are only mildly invasive.

If you’re experiencing bird flu symptoms, you’ll likely be subjected to a number of different tests in order to determine an accurate prognosis. As with any virus, H5N1 can only be detected after a series of tests have been conducted.

While testing methods for an avian flu diagnosis vary from country to country, there are some universal bird flu tests. Since only a licensed medical doctor can conduct these tests, it’s important to visit with a health care provider if you think you have the virus H5N1.

Do You Need to Get Tested?

You’ll likely only be tested for avian flu if you think you’ve come in contact with the disease. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, and you’re at risk for the disease, you may be tested for avian flu.

The bird flu is very rare in humans. If you haven’t experienced any of the common bird flu risk factors, your doctor may want to explore alternate causes for your symptoms.

Testing for Avian Flu: Methods

In 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention invented a new test for bird flu that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration within the United States. This test consists of a respiratory swab that is taken from each patient.

Once the swab is taken, the saliva collected is sent to a laboratory, where testing for the avian flu is conducted. If this test is positive, the patient will be given different medications and treatments in order to fight infection and reduce symptoms.

In some instances, throat, nose and lung X-rays may be necessary. If your doctor determines that you’ve developed pneumonia as a result of the bird flu, an x-ray may be taken.

In particular, a lung x-ray is a useful tool for doctors diagnosing avian flu. An x-ray of the lungs can help doctors determine the extent of the disease. The bird flu can damage the lungs in varying degrees, causing fluid to build up around the lungs and the lymph nodes to enlarge. Determining the extent of lung damage can help doctors treat the virus H5N1 more effectively.

Combining a respiratory swab with an X-ray is the best way to detect this virus (H5N1 is frequently detected using these methods throughout North America).


BBC News Staff. (2004). Scientists develop avian flu test. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from the BBC Web site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3655716.stm.

BBC News Staff. (2005). X-rays predict bird flu ‘toll.’ Retrieved April 19, 2010, from the BBC News Web site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4491368.stm.

Stoppler, M. (2006). Rapid lab test available for bird flu diagnosis. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from the MedicineNet Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=58586.