How do you know if you have the flu?
Influenza is a viral infection that affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and, occasionally, lungs. Seasonal influenza viruses circulate worldwide and can affect anybody in any age group. The viruses cause annual epidemics that peak during winter in temperate regions. Seasonal influenza is a serious public health problem that causes severe illness and death in high risk populations.1,2
Because flu symptoms are similar to those of other common respiratory infections, people are often treated without a formal diagnosis. Diagnostic testing is needed to determine whether illness is due to influenza and to prescribe appropriate treatment.3
Flu Testing Evolution
The availability and use of influenza rapid diagnostic tests by doctors and clinics have increased in recent years. Below are several testing methods:
- Viral Culture – This testing technology has a high accuracy, but this is time-consuming and results are often not available for several days.
- Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests – Most tests offer results within 20 minutes, but with a higher rate of false negative test results, which means a higher rate of inaccuracy.
- New Rapid Molecular Flu Tests – These tests, such as the Alere™ i Influenza A & B test, use unique molecular technology to detect flu accurately and quickly. Most new tests detect the virus within 1-2 hours, however Alere™ i can provide highly accurate results in less than 15 minutes.
The Benefits of Fast Flu Diagnosis
Most people who visit a doctor with flu-like symptoms will receive treatment based only on their symptoms without actually getting tested for the flu. For many, this treatment may not be the most appropriate one:
- People infected with the flu may not receive the medication that treats the virus (antivirals) quickly enough (within 48 hours of getting sick) for it to be effective in treating flu symptoms.
- People may be prescribed antibiotics, which are not only powerless against flu, but can also lead to serious antibiotic-resistant infections.
Rapid influenza diagnosis can help doctors make the right treatment decisions, fast.
Do you have the flu?
If you experience flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, cough or sudden onset of fever, aches, chills, or extreme tiredness, talk to your doctor about testing before treatment.
- WHO. Influenza. http://www.who.int/topics/influenza/en/ . Accessed September 23, 2015.
- WHO. Influenza Seasonal Fact Sheet. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/. Accessed September 23, 2015.
- CDC. Key facts about influenza (flu) & flu vaccine. Accessed September 23, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/rapidlab.htm Date accessed: August 27, 2014.
- FLU.gov. About the flu. http://www.flu.gov/about_the_flu/seasonal/index.html. Accessed September 23, 2015.
- CDC. Symptom Relief. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/symptom-relief.html. Accessed September 23, 2015.