Avian Influenza: Use of Penside Rapid Antigen Tests

1 December 2022

APHA has issued guidance to advise vets on the use of ‘penside’ antigen tests during the current AI outbreak and to ensure that all vets in practice are clear on the legislative requirements for reporting avian notifiable disease.

HPAI is a notifiable disease which has significant impact on animal health and welfare and on trade, as well as potential zoonotic impacts. That is why there is a national reference and official laboratory approach for investigation of this disease in GB. Suspicion of HPAI must always be reported to APHA and any resulting diagnostic testing carried out by the official laboratory as instructed by APHA.

A negative antigen test should not be interpreted as indicating freedom from AI and any decisions must be made according to the full picture. This includes any findings subsequent to the negative test result e.g. a change in clinical presentation or PME findings. If disease is suspected by anyone at any point, it must be reported immediately to APHA, irrespective of any negative antigen test result. A rapid antigen test must not be used to confirm or negate existing suspicion of disease or to inform the decision to report that suspicion to APHA. This also applies to serological tests for AI. APHA will decide whether further investigation is required, including any official laboratory testing.

Failure to report suspicion of avian notifiable disease within GB to APHA is an offence. This includes any delay caused by carrying out a rapid antigen test prior to reporting when there is already reason to suspect disease. Reporting must not be delayed whilst carrying out a rapid antigen test or any other test. Negative results must never be used as part of the decision-making process as to whether to report clinical or PME suspicion. If an antigen test is used as a screening test, the results must be interpreted with caution. A rapid test does not reliably rule out AI.

APHA is asking vets in practice to ensure that their colleagues and clients are aware of the legislative requirements and their responsibilities for reporting suspicion of notifiable avian disease.

For APHA’s advice in full, please access their Briefing Note 47/22 as follows: Use of Influenza Antigen Tests for Detecting Avian Influenza (defra.gov.uk)

See previous AI related BSAVA news articles and information here www.bsava.com/article/avian-influenza-national-housing-order-to-be-introduced-across-england/ and joint guidance from BSAVA, BVA and BVZS here along with information on backyard poultry in BSAVA’s ‘Avian influenza in backyard poultry’ Q&A and the collection in the BSAVA Library.