Bird Flu Alarm

Understanding Avian Influenza



Highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1) is classified as a select agent and must be worked with under Biosafety Level (BSL) 3+ laboratory conditions. This includes controlled access double door entry with change room and shower, use of respirators, decontamination of all wastes, and showering out of all personnel. Laboratories working on these viruses must be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The same BSL 3+ laboratory guidelines are recommended for conducting virus isolation for SARS-associated coronavirus. CDC recommends that virus isolation studies on respiratory specimens from patients who meet the above criteria not be conducted unless stringent BSL 3+ conditions can be met. Therefore, respiratory virus cultures should not be performed in most clinical laboratories and such cultures should not be ordered for patients suspected of having H5N1 infection.

Clinical specimens from suspect influenza A (H5N1) cases may be tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays using standard BSL 2 work practices in a Class II biological safety cabinet. In addition, commercial antigen detection testing can be conducted under BSL 2 levels to test for influenza.

Furthermore, all employers processing biologic specimens suspected of being infected with influenza A (H5N1) must ensure that their employees comply with all provisions of 29 CFR 1910.1030 for employee protection against bloodborne pathogens.