The flu test can be used in the diagnosis of flu infection and also help in determination of its presence in the community. Additionally, the test can be used to help identify the strain or type of flu virus responsible for infections.
Influenza is caused by two types of the flu virus; A & B. There are also numerous type A subtypes that are categorized as H & N. H3N2 and H1N1are the two strains common in humans. Most of the times during the flu season, flu is diagnosed without ordering flu tests especially if you do have the clinical systems that are associated with flu. When there is no evidence of complications or severe illness, you will be sent home where you need to drink plenty of fluids and rest.
There are times it can be deadly and when doctors know of its existence in the community, flu tests can help them reduce the spread and severity. This is why they order flu tests so it can be diagnosed early. CDC orders flu tests in different situation;
- For people whose symptoms were severe and died from flu related complications
- High risk patients in the hospital suspected to have the flu
- Situations where diagnosis obtained will guide actions and care that is taken to control spread of the virus.
The ordered flu test can be used to monitor the strain of the circulating flu viruses where there has been an outbreak. This will help in identification of new strains that will be useful in the prevention of future pandemics, monitor resistance as well as preparation of the next batch of flu vaccines.
Several tests are used and will be based on reason and circumstances why flu tests were ordered.
- Rapid influenza diagnostic test (RIDT)
Detect virus found in nasal secretions. This test can be completed within a few minutes in your doctor’s office. This will help in the differentiation of flu from other bacterial and viral infections that have symptoms that are similar.
- Real time RT-PCR and other molecular tests
The test detects the genetic material in the virus from the throat or nasal swabs. Your doctor can order this test for the diagnosis of flu A especially if you are hospitalized.
- Viral culture
Doctors can order this flu test which takes about 3 – 10 days for you to get results. It is thought as the standard test for diagnosing influenza. It may be used to check negative results or confirm flu results that are positive.
For this test the virus is grown and identified through the strains that are present. The shial vial culture will within 48 hours detect if the respiratory virus is present. As the strain that is in circulation is identified, it will be easy to come up with a flu vaccine that will assist health workers prevent and treat the flu.
Health care workers order flu tests mostly in the flu season. However, the best time for the test is within 48hours after the onset of your symptoms. The common flu symptoms are;
- Sore throat
- Stuffy nose
If your immune system is weak, you are hospitalized or you risk serious complications, flu tests can be ordered. If the flu is already in your environment, your doctor can order flu test to confirm your diagnosis and identify the best treatment. Untreated or treated flu will go away on its own in two weeks though fatigue and cough may persist for longer. However, the flu tests will be good to aid treatment as they help identify the strain of the flu virus.