Are There Different Types Of Flu Tests
In a lab setting, there are a few different ways to test for influenza. The most common test for flu is called a “rapid influenza diagnostic test” . These RIDTs detect the part of the virus that stimulates an immune response, known as an antigen, the CDC says. Another type of flu test, called a “rapid molecular assay” detects the actual genetic material of the flu virus. Both of these tests are termed “rapid” because they can provide results in 1015 minutes or 1520 minutes .
Even more accurate than RIDTs and rapid molecular assays are tests most often found in hospitals or public health laboratories . Those tests are known as: reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction tests, viral cultures, or immunofluorescence assays, the CDC says. These results also take a little longerup to several hours.
But as far as you’re concerned, all of those tests require the same thing from you: a nasal swab, where a provider swipes the inside of your nose or a throat swab, Cassandra Pierre, MD, MPH, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center, tells Health. Even more specifically, some tests go further back in the nose, while the rapid test only goes right inside, Anjali Mahoney, MD, MPH, a family medicine specialist with Keck Medicine of USC, tells Health.
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.
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What Is The Difference Between Influenza And Covid
Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.
COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu. However, as more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 should slow down. More information is available about COVID-19 vaccines and how well they work.
Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. More information about differences between flu and COVID-19 is available in the different sections below.
Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.
While more is learned every day about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, there are still things, such as post-COVID conditions, that are unknown. This page compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.
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How Is The Sample Collected For Testing
Sample collection technique is critical in influenza testing, and different kinds of influenza tests rely on different collection techniques. The best sample is usually a nasal aspirate, but a swab from the nasopharynx or nasal secretions may also be used. In some circumstances, a healthcare practitioner may use a throat swab, but this contains less of the virus than a nasopharyngeal aspirate and so may not be appropriate for use in rapid testing where sensitivity is a concern.
For an aspirate, the person collecting the sample will use a syringe to push a small amount of sterile saline into the nose, then apply gentle suction to collect the resulting fluid . To preserve the organisms in the sample, the sample is put into a special container, referred to as “viral transport media” or VTM, for delivery to the laboratory.
The nasopharyngeal swab is collected by having the person tip his or her head back, then a Dacron swab is gently inserted into one of the nostrils until resistance is met , then rotated several times and withdrawn. This may tickle a bit and cause the eyes to tear.
How The Flu Is Diagnosed
Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.
Symptoms of the flu are largely similar to those of the common cold or a respiratory infection, so you may not be able to discern between the issues on your own. Luckily, your healthcare provider can formally diagnose you with the flu with a test that confirms the presence of the influenza virus. However, while fast and non-invasive, a flu test may not always deliver accurate results.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may diagnose you with the flu based on your symptoms, whether or not someone else in your household has the flu, or if cases of influenza are increasing in your area.
Prompt diagnosis of the flu is important, as the infection can have complications, especially for certain individuals. Treatments are available to reduce the duration and intensity of the illness.
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Flu Vs Covid: How To Tell Them Apart
COVID isn’t the flu. Here’s what you need to know and how testing can help you know what you’re treating.
COVID isn’t the flu. And the flu isn’t COVID. Here’s what you need to know as we head into respiratory virus season and how you can know it.
Flu vs. COVID-19: Telling Them ApartThese viruses can have the appearance of nearly being twins.
- Fever or feeling feverish and having chills?
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing?
- Muscle pain or body aches?
- Even change in or loss of taste or smell?
All are symptoms that someone may have for both.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report “COVID-19 and flu can spread from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another . Both are spread mainly by large and small particles containing virus that are expelled when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or talk.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing and flu season in the Northern Hemisphere set to begin with a peak around the new year and as mitigating factors like distancing and wearing masks vary from state to state there’s one way to know for sure what you’re dealing with, to put the ID in COVID or the flu.
Worse, with fewer flu cases, this year’s flu shot formulations are based on less data, meaning their effectiveness could be lessened.
What Is The Flu
Influenza is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses that routinely spreads through the U.S. during the winter months. Frequent symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, congestion, chills, and a runny or stuffy nose. While this respiratory infection can be mild for many, it is serious and even life-threatening for some. Those most at risk for severe complications are young children, older adults, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions, or those with weakened immune systems. Many people diagnose themselves with the flu and manage the illness at home with over-the-counter pain relievers. However, getting a flu test and a prescription antiviral medication can reduce the severity and length of your symptoms.
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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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When Should I Get An At
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.
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.
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Why Is The Flu Such A Big Deal
The flu is an important general and public health concern because it can be deadly and because every few decades an especially lethal influenza strain emerges. The worst on record is the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide, and more than 500,000 in the United States alone. In 1957 and 1968, hundreds of thousands died in the U.S. from Asian and Hong Kong flu variants.
In more recent years, there has been international concern about the H5N1 and H7N9 subtypes of influenza A, commonly called avian flu, and H1N1 flu. Some of these subtypes have caused outbreaks in humans, and there is concern that they may in the future cause more widespread and serious outbreaks. Read the article on Influenza to learn more about these.
Who Should Get Testing
Flu tests are typically only performed when you have symptoms that are suggestive of a possible influenza virus infection. Several factors can influence whether flu testing is likely to be beneficial, including:
- Whether there is extensive transmission of influenza viruses in your community
- Whether you are at higher risk of severe complications from the flu
- Whether the test result will change your treatment plan
- Whether you have gotten sick as part of a respiratory disease outbreak in a school, nursing home, cruise ship, or similar situation where flu diagnosis may influence infection control measures
In many cases, especially if you have mild symptoms or are not at high risk of complications, a flu test is unnecessary because it will not change the course of your medical care. Similarly, if an influenza virus is spreading in your area and you have symptoms that are consistent with the flu, a diagnosis of influenza can be made without a flu test.
In contrast, if you have severe symptoms, are being hospitalized, or have an elevated risk of developing life-threatening complications, you are more likely to have flu testing. Testing is also generally done more often during seasonal periods when influenza virus transmission is high.
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Should I Get A Flu Shot
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and older get a flu shot each season. In particular, people who are at high risk of complications from the flu should receive the vaccine. These include young children, the elderly, residents of nursing home and other long-term care facilities, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and liver or kidney disorders.
Why Do You Need It
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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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.
When To Send Specimen
Send a specimen to the MDH Public Health Laboratory in the following circumstances:
- Hospitalized surveillance â specimens submitted from persons who are hospitalized with influenza-like illness* or clinical suspicion of influenza or deceased following ILI* or clinical suspicion of influenza.
- It is important to send a specimen on any hospitalized patient with ILI* or clinical suspicion of influenza even if rapid influenza testing is negative or if testing was not performed.
- If your laboratory is performing onsite influenza testing by PCR, positive influenza A specimens that are subtyped as H1N1pdm or H3 do not need to be routinely submitted.
- Positive influenza A specimens that are unsubtyped, subtyped as “seasonal H1,” or “indeterminate” do need to be submitted to MDH-PHL for further characterization as they could be variant influenza strains.
- All positive influenza B specimens should be submitted to MDH-PHL.
- Specimens that are negative by PCR for influenza A and B do not need to be submitted to MDH-PHL.
- Sentinel surveillance â these facilities are pre-determined.
- Laboratory surveillance – isolates from virology laboratories only.
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Ways To Treat Flu Symptoms And Feel Better
If youâre searching the web for flu treatment, you probably arenât feeling too well right about now. Hereâs the bad news: thereâs no cure for it and it usually lasts for one to two weeks. And just because you have the flu doesnât mean you wonât get it again, since there are many different strains of the flu virus. The good news? Just because there is no cure does not mean there is no way to feel better when you have the flu. There are several over-the-counter medicines available to you to help you combat the symptoms you feel while you are sick with the flu. And some medicines treat multiple symptoms in a single product.
Hereâs 10 ways to treat flu symptoms at home so you can get relief while your body fights the virus.
When you first come down with the flu, rest is what will help give your body the energy it needs to fight the flu virus and flu symptoms, which is why rest is one of the go-to recommendations for people suffering from the flu.1
Stay at home and rest, especially during the first 24 hours after becoming ill.
Consuming enough fluids is another regularly recommended practice for people who have the flu.1 Fever, a common flu symptom, is associated with dehydration, so it is important to get adequate amounts of water or other fluids to ensure that you stay hydrated while you have the flu.2
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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