ATLANTA — The government approved a new genetic test for the flu virus Tuesday that will allow labs across the country to identify flu strains within four hours instead of four days.
The time-saving test could be crucial if a deadly new strain emerges, federal health officials said. The new test also could help doctors make better treatment decisions during a conventional flu season.
The test was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Applied Biosystems Inc. of Foster City, Calif. The Food and Drug Administration approved the test kit Tuesday, and state health labs are expected to start using it this fall.
CDC officials celebrated it as a potential lifesaver, especially if the nation is hit by a pandemic of bird flu or some other mutant influenza.