Scientists in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland have developed a test to detect bird flu infections in humans within hours.
The scientists say it could become an important tool for health officials when trying to control the killer virus.
Scientists from Shantou University and Xiamen University and the University of Hong Kong say their new rapid diagnostic kits can confirm H5N1 infections within two hours.
Previous tests used to take three to five days and sometimes more than a week.
The scientists say in a statement that these techniques are convenient, rapid and are easy for non-specialists to use.
The new diagnostic kits could be used directly on the outbreak site, detecting the virus or antibodies for the virus in nasal or throat secretions and serum.
H5N1 bird flu first broke out in humans in Hong Kong in 1997, infecting 18 people and killing six of them. Among the countries worst hit by bird flu this year are Thailand, where the virus has killed at least 12 people, and Vietnam, where 20 people have died.
(CRI December 10, 2004)