The Food and Drug Administration has approved a diagnostic kit that sharply reduces the time needed to test patients for West Nile virus.
The current West Nile test takes about two days and it can take up to two weeks to get results because of the large number of people tested.
The new test only takes hours and results are available the same day. It was developed by the Australian medical diagnostics company PANBIO.
FDA spokesman Lawrence Bachorik says the test, which costs about $25, detects antibodies to the West Nile virus in the blood. Results must be confirmed by a follow-up test.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne disease that can cause life-threatening illness in humans, horses and birds. Last year, there was a record 4,000 West Nile cases in the United States.
Tuesday's announcement is timely because experts are predicting the incidence of infection from West Nile virus will rise in North America again this Summer, largely as a result of a wet Spring and higher mosquito populations. The disease is most prevalent during mosquito season, from July to October.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that it has confirmed one human case of West Nile virus, in South Carolina, this year and found the virus in mosquitoes and animals in 28 states.
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