How Is The Test Used
Influenza testing may be used to help diagnose an influenza infection and help make treatment decisions. Sometimes influenza testing is used to help document the presence of influenza in the community or to help determine whether an outbreak of flu is occurring, especially in settings such as nursing homes and schools. Testing may be used to identify the type and/or the strain of influenza causing infections.
Not all cases of influenza require testing for antiviral treatments to be prescribed. Healthcare practitioners may diagnose and treat influenza without testing if the person has typical signs and symptoms of the flu, plus it is the flu season and it is known that the flu has reached a community. If it is outside the 3 to 4 day window when antiviral treatment is most effective and there is no evidence of severe illness or secondary complications, the person may simply be sent home to rest, drink fluids, and soothe symptoms with over-the-counter remedies.
However, the flu can be deadly. Testing can help healthcare practitioners minimize its spread and prescribe antiviral drugs to treat patients to lessen its severity, if it is diagnosed early. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing in certain situations:
Types Of Rapid Flu Testing
There are several types of rapid influenza diagnostic tests no available, all of which can provide results within 15 minutes. More than 10 have been approved the FDA. There are some important distinctions between varieties of RIDTs among these are the fact that some RIDTs can identify both A and B viruses and distinguish between them, and some cannot.
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 prescribeantiviral 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
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Its Never Too Late To Get The Flu Vaccine
Everyone should get an annual flu shot. If you havent had your flu shot this year, its never too late to be vaccinated. Particularly if youre in an at-risk group and eligible for free flu vaccination.
The flu vaccination is free for:
- children aged 6 months to under 5 years
- pregnant women
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- people with chronic medical conditions.
You can get your flu shot from a range of providers including GPs, community health centres and some pharmacies.
Please note, some doctors or other immunisation providers may charge a consultation fee. Check with your local immunisation provider to see whether there are any costs involved.
What Should I Do If I Test Positive For The Flu
If you test positive for the flu, your healthcare provider may prescribe you an antiviral medication, such as Tamiflu or Xofluza . If this is the case, be sure to get this prescription filled as soon as you can. These medications are most effective when you first get sick with the flu.
Besides getting started on any antiviral medications, you should also:
Stay away from other people as much as possible while youre sick.
Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wearing a face mask is helpful with this.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you’re unable to access soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Clean any surfaces or items that multiple people touch .
Stay home until youre better. The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever goes away without using fever reducers.
If you experience any of the following symptoms you should seek immediate medical care:
Shortness of breath
Finding it extremely hard to wake up
Not being able to urinate at all
You should also see a healthcare provider if your symptoms get better and then get worse again.
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Getting Tested For Influenza
Tests for influenza infection are often ordered by a doctor and conducted in a hospital, doctors office, or laboratory. Rapid flu tests may also be done in outpatient settings like health clinics or pharmacies.
Testing for influenza normally involves a swab of the area in the back of the nose, the inside of the nostril, and/or the throat. For most people, obtaining a sample is not painful and can be done in under a minute.
In addition to flu swabs, testing can be done with nasopharyngeal aspirates, which are samples removed through the nose with a suction device. Because they are more difficult and uncomfortable to obtain, nasopharyngeal aspirates are not commonly used for diagnostic testing.
The only type of flu testing that does not use a sample from the respiratory tract is serology testing, which is not used for flu diagnosis. Serology tests require a blood sample that is typically taken from a vein in the arm.
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.
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When To Get Tested
When it is flu season and a healthcare practitioner wants to determine whether your symptoms are due to seasonal influenza A or B or to another cause within 3 to 4 days of the onset of signs and symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, weakness, fatigue, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose and sometimes runny nose
How Do I Know If I Need To Get A Flu Test
If you experience any of the following flu symptoms, it might be a good idea to get a flu test:
Fever or feeling like you have a fever
A runny or stuffy nose
Vomiting or diarrhea more common in kids than adults
Its important to know that everyones flu symptoms are different. You may have some or all of these. But typically, flu symptoms come on quickly .
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Finding A Flu Test Near You
Rapid influenza tests are available at most urgent care or walk-in clinics as well as your primary care providers office. If youre experiencing flu symptoms, call ahead and ask whether flu tests are offered at that location. Your primary care office should be your first call. Describe your symptoms and ask if they can see you that day.
Insurance may cover the cost of the test. If you dont have insurance, your healthcare provider may charge anywhere from $50 to $100 in addition to the cost of the office visit.
Remember, the best way to prevent seasonal influenza is to get a yearly flu vaccine. While the flu shot cant guarantee that you wont get sick, it dramatically reduces your chances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . If you do get the flu after having the vaccine, youll likely have a milder course and are less likely to experience serious problems.
Questions For Your Doctor After At
If youve recently taken an at-home flu test, the following questions may be useful to discuss with your doctor:
- How do you interpret my test result?
- Do you think the at-home test that I took was accurate?
- Should I have any follow-up testing?
- Are any treatments or other measures appropriate given my symptoms and test result?
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Expert Tips For Getting A Flu Test
Here are a few things to note when seeking care for your flu symptoms:
What Does The Test Result Mean
A positive flu test means that the affected person most likely has influenza A or B, and treatment with antiviral medication may be prescribed to minimize symptoms. However, it may not tell the healthcare practitioner which strain of influenza is causing the infection, how severe the symptoms are likely to be, or whether or not a person may experience any secondary complications.
A negative influenza test may mean that the person has something other than influenza, that the test is not detecting the influenza strain, or that there is not sufficient virus in the specimen to allow it to be detected. This may be due to either a poor specimen collection or because a person has had the flu for several days and less virus is being shed. New strains of influenza may be present that diagnostic tests cannot reliably detect.
Some rapid tests can further identify the subtypes of influenza A, such as H1N1, and some identify other respiratory viruses, such as RSV.
Viral cultures, if positive, identify the virus present. If the virus present is influenza, further tests can be performed to determine which strain is present and its susceptibility to antiviral agents.
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How Accurate Are Flu Tests
Generally speaking, if your flu test is positive, you have the flu. If your flu test is negative, its possible the test doesnt recognize the flu strain type that you have. The person performing your flu test also may not have collected enough material to accurately detect the flu.
According to the American Association of Clinical Chemistry, rapid antigen tests are about 50 to 70 percent accurate, although the Food and Drug Administration has required more recent tests to make changes to improve their results.
Molecular tests are anywhere from 66 to 100 percent accurate. The results and accuracy depend upon what test type you use.
Testing specimens are most likely to be accurate when theyre measured within 48 to 72 hours of the onset of your flu symptoms.
Less is known about flu tests abilities to detect the flu in asymptomatic patients because most people seek the tests when they arent feeling well.
Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests
RIDTs, also called flu antigen tests, are the most common type of flu test. They can identify the presence of influenza A and B, and they work by detecting the parts of the flu virus called antigens that trigger an immune response.
RIDTs usually involve inserting a swab into your nostril to get a sample.
RIDTs provide results within approximately 10 to 15 minutes, but they may not be as accurate as other flu tests. You could still have the flu even though your rapid test result is negative.
Rapid molecular assays for flu testing
Rapid molecular assays are flu tests that detect the genetic material of the flu virus. They produce results in 15 to 30 minutes and are more accurate than RIDTs.
These tests use a nasopharyngeal swab. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Healthcare providers also use this test for people who are in the hospital and have flu symptoms.
Specialized laboratory flu tests
Other specialized laboratory flu tests are more accurate than RIDTs and rapid molecular assays. One of these tests is called reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction .
For these tests, a healthcare provider collects a sample and then sends the swab to a laboratory for testing. It may take one to several hours or days to get your results.
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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.
Is There A Test That Can Detect Both Flu And Covid
Yes. There is a test that will check for seasonal flu type A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This test is being used by U.S. public health laboratories for surveillance purposes. Testing for these viruses at the same time will give public health officials important information about how flu and COVID-19 are spreading and what prevention steps should be taken. The test will also help public health laboratories save time and testing materials, and to possibly return test results faster.
The Food and Drug Administration has given CDC an Emergency Use Authorizationexternal icon for this new test. Initial test kits were sent to public health laboratories in early August 2020. CDC will continue to manufacture and distribute these kits.
More information for laboratories is available.
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Can I Still Get The Flu If I’ve Had The Vaccine
Yes, it is possible to get the flu after being vaccinated since no vaccine is 100% effective. However, if you get the flu after being vaccinated, it is usually a milder illness with a quicker recovery. It also takes a few weeks after vaccination before antibodies are made to the vaccine that can provide protection. Occasionally, a new strain circulates that is not in the current vaccine, so you would not be protected against infection with that strain of the virus.
The Accuracy Of Flu Tests Varies Depending On The Type Of Test
RIDTs may be quick, but theyre not as accurate as other tests. Theyre able to detect flu viruses between 50% and 70% of the time. If paired with a special reader device, they become slightly more accurate .
Rapid molecular assays are much more accurate than RIDTs. Theyre typically between 90% and 95% accurate.
RT-PCR tests are also very accurate flu tests. Some studies have even found them to be 98% accurate at detecting flu viruses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , immunofluorescence tests have moderate accuracy, but an exact percentage isnt provided. All we can say from this information is that this flu test is less accurate than rapid molecular assays and RT-PCR tests.
No matter which flu test you take, if you get a positive test result, there is a good chance that you are infected with the virus identified by the test. However, it does not rule out the possibility of a coinfection, which means that you may also be infected with another virus or bacteria not included in the test.
If you get a negative result, it means that the genetic material of the viruses being tested were not found in your sample. But as we discussed, it is possible to get a false negative result especially if you have symptoms, exposure risk, or other factors that suggest that you are infected. Your provider may use all of this information in determining the best course of action.
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The Flu Shot And Covid
An important update regarding timing between receiving the flu and COVID-19 vaccines for all Victorians including those most vulnerable in our community.
The original recommended timing between receipt of the 2 vaccines was a preferred minimum interval of 2 weeks .
Based on the latest medical advice the preferred minimum interval between vaccinations for COVID-19 and the flu is now 7 days.