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Following human infections with novel avian influenza A(H7N9) viruses in China, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe and the European Reference Laboratory Network for Human Influenza (ERLI-Net) rapidly posted relevant information, including real-time RT-PCR protocols. An influenza RNA sequence-based computational assessment of detection capabilities for this virus was conducted in 32 national influenza reference laboratories in 29 countries, mostly WHO National Influenza Centres participating in the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS). Twenty-seven countries considered their generic influenza A virus detection assay to be appropriate for the novel A(H7N9) viruses. Twenty-two countries reported having containment facilities suitable for its isolation and propagation. Laboratories in 27 countries had applied specific H7 real-time RT-PCR assays and 20 countries had N9 assays in place. Positive control virus RNA was provided by the WHO Collaborating Centre in London to 34 laboratories in 22 countries to allow evaluation of their assays. Performance of the generic influenza A virus detection and H7 and N9 subtyping assays was good in 24 laboratories in 19 countries. The survey showed that ERLI-Net laboratories had rapidly developed and verified good capability to detect the novel A(H7N9) influenza viruses.


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