Friday, September 29, 2023

How Are You Tested For The Flu

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When Should I Get An At

VERIFY: Can a common cold produce a false positive on COVID test?

There are no strict guidelines or clear recommendations for when to take an at-home flu test.

In general, flu testing is only conducted when you have symptoms that could be caused by an underlying infection with an influenza virus. Testing is most often done when symptoms are significant or when you are at higher risk of flu complications because of your age, coexisting medical conditions, or pregnancy.

A flu test is often not necessary if you have only mild symptoms and flu transmission in your community is high. In these cases, testing may not be needed because it would not change the way you are treated.

If you have flu-like symptoms or are concerned about possibly having the flu, you should talk with a doctor. Since there are multiple factors involved in determining whether a flu test is appropriate, the doctor can address whether testing, including at-home testing, is recommended in your situation.

Flu Testing And Diagnosis: How Does It Work

Influenza is a viral respiratory illness that affects millions of people each year.

Symptoms can include fever, cough, stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, headache, chills and fatigue. A flu test is not always needed to diagnose the flu. However, in some cases, your healthcare provider may need to confirm if you have the flu, so they may recommend testing.

When Should You Get Tested For The Flu

Angela Underwood’s extensive local, state, and federal healthcare and environmental news coverage includes 911 first-responder compensation policy to the Ciba-Geigy water contamination case in Toms River, NJ. Her additional health-related coverage includes death and dying, skin care, and autism spectrum disorder.

Verywell Health / Brianna Gilmartin

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How Is The Flu Treated

In most cases you can treat the symptoms of a mild flu yourself. Most people will get better by themselves within 7 to 10 days and without any treatment.

Some things you can do to relieve flu symptoms include:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking plenty of water and other non-alcoholic fluids to prevent dehydration
  • keeping warm
  • eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke if possible
  • inhaling steam from a hot bath or shower in a closed room to help relieve a blocked nose remember to always directly supervise children near hot water

If you have a sore throat, try:

  • gargling with warm salty water
  • sucking on an ice cube, ice block or a throat lozenge
  • drinking hot water with honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice

There are also several medicines available to ease cold and flu symptoms, such as pain and fever.

If you are sick with the flu, stay home and avoid close contact with other people until you feel better.

Antibiotics only work on infections caused by bacteria. As the flu is caused by a virus, taking antibiotics will not help you get better faster or stop you from spreading it to other people.

Taking antibiotics can cause side effects like an upset stomach, diarrhoea and thrush. When you take antibiotics for the cold or flu, you also increase the risk of antibiotic resistance in the future.

Can You Tell If It’s The Flu Or Covid

Rapid flu tests only 50 to 70 percent accurate, CDC says

The second flu season of the pandemic is off and running, and every cough and sniffle will carry an extra worry: possible COVID-19 infection.

With influenza and the usual cold-weather respiratory infections in circulation, along with COVID-19, it’s not always easy to sort out what’s ailing you if you do get sick.

We talked to UC San Francisco emergency care physician Jahan Fahimi, M.D., and infectious disease specialist Peter Chin Hong, M.D., about the differences between flu and COVID-19, when to get a test, and why you shouldn’t try to diagnose yourself.

Note: If you think you’re experiencing a life-threatening or severe condition, call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency department.

Is it possible to tell the difference between flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms?

“I think it’s tough because the flu and COVID-19 can have a variety of overlapping symptoms,” said Fahimi. Those can include fever, chills and body aches, upper respiratory symptoms like runny nose and sore throat, lower respiratory symptoms like cough and pneumonia, and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“While certain symptoms are slightly more associated with one virus than the other, there’s enough overlap that there’s uncertainty,” cautioned Fahimi. “So we wouldn’t use the presence or absence of those symptoms to rule in or out either illness.”

Does COVID-19 have any telltale symptoms?

What should you do if you feel sick?

Do COVID-19 and the flu spread differently?

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Specimen Collection And Shipping To Ma Sphl

Flu specimens should be collected as soon as possible after onset of illness, preferably within three days . Specimens collected after 72 hours are usually unsuitable for testing. Specimens should be submitted immediately after collection to MA SPHL, in order to be tested within three days of collection. If samples will be shipped to MA SPHL > 3 days from collection or on a Friday, but are collected within 72 hours, they should be frozen at < -20ºC and shipped with ice packs on Monday. This variation must be noted on the specimen submission form to avoid an unsatisfactory for testing designation.

Find State Public Health Laboratory specimen submission forms in the downloads section of the Influenza information for healthcare and public health professionals handbook.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know

Treated or untreated, most influenza infections will go away within one or two weeks, although fatigue and a cough may last a while longer. A few people, however, may develop serious secondary complications. These complications often arise just as influenza symptoms are fading.

Anyone is susceptible to complications from the flu, but the very young, the elderly, and people who are immunocompromised or who have pre-existing lung disease are most affected. Complications such as pneumonia, sepsis, and encephalitis can be very serious and may require immediate medical treatment.

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Similarities Between The Symptoms Of The Flu And Covid

The flu and COVID-19 are different viruses. They’re very contagious and have similar symptoms. This can make it hard to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 when symptoms appear.

If you start to develop symptoms, follow the same precautions taken for COVID-19.

This year is more important than ever for everyone 6 months and older to get the flu shot. This will help prevent the flu and flu-related complications. Preventing the flu will also help reduce stress on the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Does A Flu Test Involve

Testing for the flu | Infectious diseases | Health & Medicine | Khan Academy

The flu is a highly contagious viral infection. Flu tests screen for influenza viruses A and B and help rule out other common causes of flu symptoms, such as the cold, as well as less common but more serious illnesses like COVID-19.

During a rapid flu test, a long, thin cotton swab is gently inserted toward the back of the throat to collect a saliva sample. The sample is then promptly evaluated in our clinical lab and results are usually ready in about 15 minutes. Based on the outcome of the test, our practitioners will prescribe an appropriate treatment plan and provide guidance on how to avoid spreading illness to others.

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When Should I See My Doctor

If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there is usually no need to see a doctor if you have flu-like symptoms. But you should see your doctor if you or your child have flu symptoms and:

  • are younger than 5 years old
  • are aged 65 years or older and living in an aged care home
  • have heart or kidney disease, or a medical condition like type 2 diabetes
  • are pregnant
  • are very obese
  • are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
  • have severe asthma, breathing problems or a lung disease
  • have a disease that affects your muscles and/or the nerves that control them, and that can affect your ability to breathe
  • have a weakened immune system
  • are homeless
  • are a smoker

This is because flu can be serious for you and your doctor may want to prescribe antiviral medication.

Anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms should see their doctor if they:

  • cant or wont drink fluids
  • are vomiting frequently and/or are unable to drink fluids
  • have an intense headache

Testing For The Flu Can Help You Get Faster Treatment But Why Is It So Hard To Get A Rapid Antigen Test For Influenza

Flu cases are surging around Australia.

Two years of COVID restrictions have left the population with little natural immunity for influenza and we head into the winter months with both viruses circulating in the community.

And then there’s testing. You can get tested to see if you have the flu after contacting a doctor, but rapid antigen tests are another story.

Also Check: Time To Recover From Flu

Influenza Virus Testing Methods

Table 1: Influenza Virus Testing Methods

Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests4 A and B NP5 swab, aspirate or wash, nasal swab, aspirate or wash, throat swab < 15 min.
Rapid Molecular Assay A and B
Immunofluorescence, Direct or Indirect Florescent Antibody Staining A and B NP4 swab or wash, bronchial wash, nasal or endotracheal aspirate 1-4 hours No
RT-PCR7 and other molecular assays A and B NP5 swab, throat swab, NP5 or bronchial wash, nasal or endotracheal aspirate, sputum Varies No
Rapid cell culture A and B NP5 swab, throat swab, NP5 or bronchial wash, nasal or endotracheal aspirate, sputum 1-3 days
Viral tissue cell culture A and B NP5 swab, throat swab, NP5 or bronchial wash, nasal or endotracheal aspirate, sputum 3-10 days No
  • Serologic testing is not recommended for routine patient diagnosis and cannot inform clinical management. A single acute serum specimen for seasonal influenza serology is uninterpretable and should not be collected. Serological testing for detection of antibodies to seasonal influenza viruses is useful for research studies and requires collection of appropriately timed acute and convalescent serum specimens and testing of paired sera at specialized research or public health laboratories.
  • Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988.
  • NP = nasopharyngeal
  • Rapid molecular assays can provide results in approximately 15-30 minutes.
  • VTM = Viral transport media
  • What Are The Pros And Cons Of Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests

    Got the flu? Stay home from work

    Advantages of the test

    • RIDTs produce quick results in less than 15 minutes and are simple to perform.
    • Some RIDTs are cleared for office/bedside use.

    Disadvantages of the test

    • Sub-optimal test sensitivity and false-negative results are common, especially when influenza activity is high.
    • Sensitivity of RIDTs used to detect influenza B viral antigens is lower than those used to detect influenza A viral antigens.
    • Although specificity is high, false-positive results can also occur, especially during times when influenza activity is low.
    • Some RIDTs distinguish between influenza A and B viruses, while others do not.
    • RIDTs that provide results on the type of influenza virus do not provide information on influenza A virus subtype or specific virus strain. RIDTs cannot distinguish between seasonal influenza A virus infection and novel influenza A virus infection .

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    When Do I Need A Flu Test

    If you have flu-like symptoms or are concerned about possibly having the flu, talk to your healthcare provider. Most people dont need a flu test and recover from the flu within a week or two, but a number of factors can contribute to your provider wanting you to get a flu test.

    Symptoms of the flu include:

    • Sudden onset of moderate to high fever.
    • Being over the age of 65 or under the age of 5.
    • Being in the hospital for treatment for another condition.

    You may also need to take a flu test so that public health officials or providers can figure out whether an outbreak of respiratory illness in a community, such as a school or nursing home, has been caused by the flu.

    Public health officials and providers may also use specialized flu tests to identify the type of flu virus thats causing infections.

    Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Flu Test

    A new flu vaccine is made each fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for most people 6 months or older. It is especially recommended for people in high-risk groups, such as young children, adults over the age of 65, and individuals with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or heart disease. If you have questions about the flu vaccine, talk to your health care provider.

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    How To Protect Yourself Against The Flu And Covid

    If there was ever a year when you were going to get a flu shot, this is the year. Call your doctor to make an appointment.

    To avoid a potential twindemic this year, medical experts at NewYork-Presbyterian medical groups recommend taking the following precautions:

    • Get a flu shot. Call your doctor now to schedule an appointment to get your flu shot, as you should receive it prior to the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Practice safety precautions. Fortunately, the preventive measures for COVID-19 also apply for the flu: avoiding large crowds and gatherings, wearing a mask, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and staying at home when you feel sick.
    • Take care of your immune system. Caring for your immune system is very important to fight off infections, especially viruses. Boost your immunity by eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

    For more articles about science, care, and wellness, visit

    Why Do You Need It

    How to tell the difference between flu, common cold and COVID-19 | ABC7 Chicago

    When your doctor finds the flu virus, they can give you antiviral drugs early on. This is when they work best. If you get diagnosed early — within 48 hours after symptoms show up — these drugs can ease your symptoms and shorten the illness by a day or so. After the first 2 days, though, these meds wont do much for you.

    A flu test can also help your doctor rule out giving you antibiotics. Those dont work against viral infections like the flu.

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    Can I Test Negative And Still Have The Flu

    Yes. Influenza tests may not detect every case of the flu. Rapid antigen tests generally detect 50-70% of influenza cases, while molecular tests detect 66%-100% of cases, depending on the test used. A negative result may mean that the test is not detecting the influenza strain or that there is not sufficient virus in the sample to allow it to be detected. Also, new strains of influenza may be present in the sample that tests cannot reliably detect.

    If You Have Manageable Symptoms Like A Mild Cold Should You Still Do A Covid

    Doctors say yes.

    “The purpose of a rapid test is not to tell you you’re not infected,” said Barrett.

    “The purpose of a rapid test at this point is to tell you, if you do have a positive, that it’s highly likely that you have Omicron, or COVID.”

    And knowing that is important for several reasons.

    “If you’re a person at high risk, getting a test would make you eligible for antiviral treatment,” said Dr. Kashif Pirzada, an emergency physician in Toronto.

    He recommends anyone who is elderly, immunocompromised, or who has multiple medical conditions to get a rapid antigen test at the very least, though a PCR would be best. Still, he said a positive rapid test “would put you in line to get these new antiviral medications,” including Remdesivir or Paxlovid.

    Rapid testing is also recommended if you are young or otherwise healthy, for a few reasons.

    “In the case of a situation where somebody might be unfortunate enough to develop long COVID, it’s important to have that documentation of having had COVID,” said Mithani.

    She said it’s also important to know so that you can let anyone you were in close contact with know that they’ve been exposed to the virus.

    Recommended Reading: Flu Shot For Over 65

    Can You Get Rapid Antigen Tests For The Flu

    Yes. The technology is available, but the demand for flu RATs isn’t there yet, University of Queensland virologist Kirsty Short says.

    “There hasn’t been the demand, I mean, rapid antigen testing has been around as a technology for other pathogens,” Dr Short says.

    “For example, HIV has rapid antigen tests and that’s been used widely.”

    That could change following their common use amid the COVID pandemic.

    She says the idea of widespread use of rapid antigen testing is relatively new.

    At the moment rapid antigen tests for the flu are expensive and not as widely available as COVID tests.

    “So, I think that makes it difficult, but if we were in a situation where they could be rolled out to the general public I think it would be useful,” Dr Short says.

    “The easier, and cheaper these tests can become the more widely they can be used.”

    What Symptoms To Look For

    Rapid Flu &  Strep Throat Testing

    Early signs of cold, flu and Covid-19 tend to be similar, El-Sayed said.

    Both Covid-19 and the flu often cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, shortness of breath and vomiting or diarrhea, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Covid-19 infection can be distinguished, however, by the headache and dry cough that often go along with it. The loss of taste and smell that has been the biggest warning sign of a Covid-19 infection is still a possible symptom, though it is less prevalent now than it has been with other variants, El-Sayed said.

    For people who are feeling serious chest pain, particularly with a dry cough that has gotten worse, thats when you really ought to seek medical attention, he warned.

    The most important factor to consider is exposure.

    If you are starting to feel any of these symptoms, its worth asking: Has anybody with whom Ive come into contact been infected with Covid? Its also worth isolating and taking a rapid test, he advised.

    Even if youre not feeling symptoms yet, it may be best to exercise caution if you have been around someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

    I do think it is worth keeping a high suspicion that it could be Covid considering that we have the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, El-Sayed added.

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