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FDA greenlights test for "cruise ship" virus

The Food and Drug Administration today announced that it was allowing widespread marketing for a new test to detect norovirus, which has been responsible for a number of gastointestinal illness outbreaks in the Boston area in recent years.

The test called Ridascreen Norovirus 3rd Generation EIA assay can't be used to identify, say, that nasty stomach bug you picked up from who knows where. That's because it's "not sensitive enough for use when only a single person has symptoms," according to a statement from the FDA. The rapid test only detects the virus in an individual stool sample about two-thirds of the time when it's actually present.

Where it could prove useful, however, is to quickly identify whether norovirus is to blame for an illness outbreak on a cruise ship that has sickened hundreds -- or in daycare centers or hospitals where norovirus spreads on land. A test that can quickly detect about two-thirds of the cases among a large group of people is still pretty good.

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