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How Do They Check For The Flu

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What Does The Test Measure

Know the difference between COVID and the Flu

There are different types of measurements that can be used in at-home tests to detect an influenza virus infection.

Some at-home flu tests measure whether there are any detectable proteins on the surface of the influenza virus called antigens. These viral antigens, when present in the respiratory tract, can then trigger a response from the immune system resulting in the flu-like symptoms. The presence of antigens on a nasal swab or saliva sample can be an indication of an influenza infection.

Another type of at-home flu test measures whether there are any pieces of the viruss genetic material in your test sample and are known as molecular tests. One common type of molecular test uses technology known as reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction .

How To Test For Flu

There are a number of tests used to diagnose the flu. The mostcommon are rapid influenza diagnostic tests , and they may beperformed in a health care providers office. RIDTs work by detectingantigens that stimulate an immune response. Arapid molecular assay is another flu test that works by detectinggenetic material of the virus. In addition to rapid tests, there areseveral more accurate and sensitive flu tests that must be performedin specialized laboratories, such as those found in hospitals orstate public health laboratories.

A flu test typically involves a health care provider collectinga sample from the inside of your nose or back of your throat using asterile swab. The swab is then tested for the flu.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests

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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Is It Covid Or Just A Cold

It’s impossible to know for sure whether you have COVID-19 without a test, said Dr. Shazma Mithani, an emergency physician in Edmonton.

“There’s no specific symptom or lack of symptom that can say for sure it is COVID or not.”

The current list of possible COVID-19 symptoms in Canada is long 14 in all. And PHAC warns that symptoms vary from one person to another, and that age can be a factor.

Right now, some of the most commonly experienced symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Sore throat.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Temperature equal to or more than 38 C.

“Many people who have COVID infection feel almost nothing or very mild symptoms especially if they’re young and healthy versus some people as they start to get into their 40s, 50s and upwards seem to be much more symptomatic,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease doctor and researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

And a once telltale sign has all but disappeared.

“That loss of taste and smell, which was kind of a warning symptom of, like, this is very likely COVID that has evolved out of the virus, where it’s less prominent now,” said Barrett.

What doctors say they are seeing more of with Omicron is gastrointestinal symptoms, especially diarrhea, but also vomiting and abdominal pain.

Still, the bottom line is that testing is the only way to know for sure whether you have COVID-19.

What To Do If You Think You Have The Flu Covid

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Yes, its possible to test positive for the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, but experts say the chances of having a coinfection are very, very low. If you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article, heres a game plan for how to quickly determine a diagnosis.

  • Talk to your doctor. If youre coming down with a telltale sign of COVID-19 or the flu, seek medical care. Experts say its a good idea to put on a mask and self-isolate from your family if you have symptoms, to play it safe.
  • Get tested. Experts agree that its important to be tested as quickly as possible for COVID-19 and flu. Heres some good news: The nose swab can be used to test for both COVID-19 and the flu. Schedule an appointment with your doctor or local health clinic, or visit an urgent care center where tests should be available.
  • Start treatment. After a diagnosis, move forward with the appropriate treatment. For the flu, the gold standard is an antiviral drug that your doctor might prescribe which helps to lessen the severity of symptoms and shorten duration of the illness. For milder cases of COVID-19, most people can recover at home by monitoring their symptoms, resting, and drinking fluids.

If you are having trouble breathing, persistent pain, chest pressure, new confusion, an inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face, seek emergency medical care immediately.

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How Accurate Is The Flu Test

Accuracy of the flu test depends on which kind of test isperformed and the type of influenza thats going around. While RIDTsare the most common flu tests, they are not as accurate as othertypes of flu tests, but they seem to be better at detecting the fluin children than adults. In general, if you receive a positive rapidtest during a flu outbreak, it likely means youre infected with theflu. Note that false negative and false positive test results can occur.

Can You Tell If It’s The Flu Or Covid

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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Expert Tips For Getting A Flu Test

Here are a few things to note when seeking care for your flu symptoms:

  • Get a flu test and a COVID-19 test as soon as you are symptomatic. Getting a flu test earlier in the course of illness can increase the likelihood of an accurate result.
  • If you do have the flu, antiviral medications may lessen the length of symptoms and the severity of your illness. These medications are more effective if started within two days of your first symptoms.
  • If you have a negative test, discuss with your healthcare provider whether you still may have the flu even though the test results didnt report it.
  • If you get a positive flu result, discuss with your provider whether an antiviral medication, such asTamiflu , would be helpful.
  • If you are diagnosed with the flu, be aware that it is very contagious. Take precautions. Prevent the spread. Wash your hands frequently. Wear a mask. Distance. Work from home. Take other public health measures.
  • Keep in mindthe best way to prevent the flu is to get your annual flu shot.
  • Remember, antibiotics do not treat viral infections, such as influenza A virus, influenza B virus, or the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • How Well Can Rapid Tests Detect Flu

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    During a flu outbreak, a positive rapid flu test is likely to indicate flu virus infection. However, rapid tests vary in their ability to detect flu viruses, depending on the type of rapid test used, and on the type of flu viruses circulating. Also, rapid tests appear to be better at detecting flu in children than in adults. This variation in ability to detect viruses can result in some people who are infected with flu having a negative rapid test result. This situation is called a false negative test result. Despite a negative rapid test result, your health care provider may diagnose you with flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment.

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    Should I Be Worried About The Flu This Year

    Every year, winter flu outbreaks hospitalise thousands of people in the UK. The number of flu-related deaths varies each year, depending on which strains of the virus are circulating.

    In a typical year, around 7,000 people die in the UK as a result of flu with most deaths happening in people over 65. However, in a bad flu year, deaths can reach 25,000 or more.

    Over the past two winters, COVID measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and lockdowns have reduced flu outbreaks. Last winter, only 40 hospitalisations due to influenza were reported across England.

    With low levels of circulating flu over the past couple of years, experts are speculating that our immunity against influenza viruses has diminished. As COVID restrictions are lifted, increased virus circulation combined with low immunity levels could mean we are in for a bad flu season this year.

    How Is The Flu Diagnosed

    Its common for health care providers to diagnose the flu basedon symptoms and an exam, especially during flu season when the flu isgoing around your community. Often times a flu test isnt performedbecause testing positive for the flu doesnt change the recommendedtreatment. However, your health care provider will likely suggest aflu test if you are at high risk for serious complications from theflu. In addition, if you are admitted into the hospital because yourprovider suspects you may have the flu, you will likely be tested forthe virus.

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    How Do These Viruses Spread

    Both COVID-19 and flu are spread through particles containing the virus when someone with either illness coughs, sneezes or talks. These particles can travel to the mouths or noses of nearby people, which is especially likely when people are within six feet of each other.

    Particles containing the viruses can also spread further in environments with poor ventilation.

    Both COVID-19 and flu are mostly spread by inhalation, but infections can also happen through touch – this includes physical contact with an infected person or touching a contaminated surface before touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

    Both viruses can be passed on regardless of whether someone is showing severe symptoms or not. Flu can spread for at least one day before any symptoms begin showing and COVID-19 for at least two days.

    What Happens During A Flu Test

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    There are a couple of different ways to get a sample for testing:

    • Swab test. Your health care provider will use a special swab to take a sample from your nose or throat.
    • Nasal Aspirate. Your health care provider will inject a saline solution into your nose, then remove the sample with gentle suction.

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    What Do The Results Of A Flu Test Mean

    • Positive result: A positive result means that the test detected influenza viral antigen or RNA.
    • Negative result: A negative result means that the test didnt detect any influenza viral antigen or RNA.
    • Invalid result: If your test reveals an invalid result, it means there was an error in the testing. This could mean an issue with the sample collection or the test itself. Youll need to take another test.

    Cases Of The Flu Are Climbing Fast

    Usually, there’s a gradual increase in flu cases over the cooler months.

    But that doesn’t seem to be the case this year.

    Dr Mackay says we’re experiencing a spike in cases early in the year.

    “Some of that is due to increased lab capacity for flu testing, but the rate itself or the amount of positives per number of samples tested suggests a spike as well,” he says.

    “We usually see a bit of a baseline, the foothills of the mountain if you like, as the season comes into play.

    “But this time we’ve gone from zero to full-on and it’s not clear how high this peak will be, nor how long the flu season will last.

    “So if you’re looking to get vaccinated, now’s the time to get it.”

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    Flu Cases Are Spiking So How Do I Know If I Have Covid

    Cases of the flu are spiking around the country after the virus was forced underground for two years thanks to tight COVID-19 restrictions.

    Now the borders are open, restrictions have eased drastically and an expert says cases have gone from “zero to full-on”.

    Figures from the federal government suggest cases started climbing weeks ago. And a rapid 130 per cent jump in flu cases early in the season prompted Queensland authorities to offer people free vaccine jabs.

    High cases in NSW have authorities thinking of doing the same.

    All of this is happening while the country records roughly 40,000 COVID cases per day.

    How Is Flu Different From Covid

    Flu test can produce false negatives

    Flu and COVID-19 are caused by two different and very distinct viruses. However, they do cause similar symptoms. As we know, thanks to ZOE COVID Study app contributors, the most common COVID-19 symptoms include headache, runny nose,sneezing, sore throat, fever, and cough, which are all common flu symptoms. So how do we tell the difference?

    Our research shows that loss of smell or loss of taste is still one of the most important predictors of testing positive for COVID-19, so itâs an important symptom to look out for.

    Even if youâre vaccinated, you can still catch COVID-19. COVID symptoms can feel a lot like a cold or the flu – if youâre newly unwell we recommend you get a PCR test to rule COVID out. If youâre a ZOE COVID Study contributor and report any of the 20+ symptoms consistent with COVID-19, youâll be offered a test through the app.

    If youâre feeling unwell for any reason – whether itâs a cold, flu or COVID-19 – itâs a good idea to stay home and avoid spreading your germs to others.

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    How Well Does The Live Attenuated Flu Vaccine Work Compared To Inactivated Flu Vaccine


    Three randomized clinical trials comparing live attenuated flu vaccine to trivalent inactivated flu vaccine in young children, 2-8 years of age, suggested that live attenuated flu vaccine had superior efficacy compared to inactivated flu vaccine. However, several recent observational studies suggest that LAIV did not consistently provide better protection against flu than inactivated vaccine, especially against flu caused by the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus. Results from a randomized, school-based study conducted in Canada showed lower rates of confirmed flu among students vaccinated with live-attenuated vaccine compared with students vaccinated with inactivated flu vaccine, and decreased flu transmission among family members of students vaccinated with live-attenuated flu vaccines. ACIP does not express a preference for live-attenuated or inactivated flu vaccines for children or adults.


    Clinical trials conducted during 2004-05, 2005-06, and 2007-08 that compared inactivated flu vaccines and live attenuated flu vaccines to no vaccine among adults suggested that inactivated flu vaccines provided better protection against flu than live attenuated flu vaccines in adults .

    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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    Labcorp Receives Emergency Use Authorization For At Home Collection Kit For Combined Covid

    BURLINGTON, N.C., Oct. 1, 2021 Labcorp , a leading global life sciences company, today announced that it received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a combined home collection kit that detects COVID-19 and influenza A/B simultaneously in individuals as young as 2 years of age. The kit will be available at no upfront cost to those who meet clinical guidelines, which may include experiencing symptoms, being exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if asked to be tested by a health care provider.

    Our newest home collection kit makes it convenient for individuals, including children over the age of 2, to take the test in the safety of their homes, said Dr. Brian Caveney, chief medical officer and president, Labcorp Diagnostics. In time for flu season, the single test helps doctors and individuals make more informed treatment decisions given that symptoms of COVID-19 and flu are similar.

    Individuals infected with COVID-19 and flu may experience similar symptoms such as fever, runny and/or stuffy nose and cough. The kit helps people test for both flu and COVID-19 in the safety of their home and avoid the risk of spreading the virus to others. The kit uses a short nasal swab that is inserted into the lower nostril, making it more comfortable and easier for individuals and parents to collect samples at home.

    About Labcorp


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