What You Should Know About Rapid Flu Tests

What You Should Know About Rapid Flu Tests

Illness is a side of life that no one desires to see or encounter, but no one is absolutely immune to experiencing at one time or another. Due to ongoing situations in our contemporary world—such as a discernible global pandemic—the standard flu is not a trending topic on the current radar. Nevertheless, influenza remains a virus that is a cause for concern during the upcoming fall and winter months.

Experts in the medical field are mulling over the idea that the flu lull that’s apparently present now is only temporary. When the season finally returns, it’s more than likely going to be a doozy one. Early and accurate detection is key to minimize symptoms and prevent future cases. If you’re wondering about the flu and what the future of the illness may hold, there's no need to fret. Here is a general guide on what you should know about this illness and the rapid flu tests that can quickly detect its presence.

Common Flu Characteristics

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a viral respiratory infection that has plagued humanity worldwide for centuries. This respiratory disease is highly contagious. As a seasonal illness, the flu traditionally strikes communities during the colder months of the year. Annual outbreaks sicken and knock out hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.

The majority of individuals experience a comprehensive collection of characteristic mild symptoms, such as fevers, muscle aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, runny nose, and cough. However, recognizable by their severity, these symptoms are typically more long-lasting than those caused by the common cold. In serious and fatal cases, complications from symptoms can cause hospitalization, long-term illness, and death.

There are two types of influenza viruses that cause annual flu epidemics within a nation or region. Each of these types contains various strain subtypes. Strain symptoms mimic each other, but the distinguishing method is that B strains are exclusive to human-to-human spreading while A strains are also carried and spread by animals. Either way, a myriad of diagnostic tests exist to confirm the presence of this virus and its strain in an individual.

What Is an RIDT?

Primarily diagnosing and treating strains of the flu without laboratory testing is commonplace for healthcare providers during the peak of the flu season. That being said, diagnostic testing beneficially rules out the possibility of other illnesses causing symptoms and reduces the number of individuals taking ineffective antibiotics. Flu-like symptoms do not automatically mean the affliction is the standard flu. If the cause is the flu, patients are able to receive anti-viral therapy earlier on to treat the illness and lessen its severity.

The incubation timeframe of influenza is typically between 1-4 days. Ergo, patients may not indicate present flu symptoms for a couple of days after initially contracting the illness. After patients do develop symptoms, they typically minimize within a week or so. Using clinical judgment to diagnose the flu is generally reliable throughout the flu season. Yet, physicians may require a quick test to double-check that a patient is not experiencing another health problem. Experienced physicians are knowledgeable of appropriate screening test use. Patients in the hospital or those with higher-risk conditions are usually testing participants.

Rapid influenzas diagnostic tests—also known as their acronym of RIDTs—are fairly accurate testing alternatives compared to standard viral laboratory cultures. There is no hard rule calling for this type of testing, but distinguishing between the flu and other upper respiratory infections is the best utility. The CDC also recommends these diagnostic tests for acute respiratory outbreaks as a determining factor to ensure if public health preventive and control measures are properly in place.

The Process of Specimen Collection

The exact sample collection process depends on the requirements of a specific test. Respiratory samples are customarily collected by a physician or healthcare professional via a nasal or throat swab. These long cotton swabs are run across the back of the throat or up the nose to collect a sample. The collector will then seal the sample for testing and wait for results or bring it to a lab for same-day testing.

The advantage of rapid diagnostic tests is that physicians themselves can run the test procedures without the need to send samples off to the laboratory and wait for results. General RIDTs will conclude their results within 15-20 minutes and reveal the presence or lack of influenzas virus antigens.

The Reliability of Reported Results

Similar to other rapid diagnostic tests, RIDTs are not completely failproof. False-negative and false-positive tests remain a possibility depending on the circulating type of influenza and the selective diagnostic test. To reach a higher accuracy, the FDA passed stricter test standards several years ago requiring stricter sensitivity components. However, rapid tests still vary in their ability to detect strains and types of influenza.

This variance is what you should know about rapid flu tests and their capabilities. A positive result indicates an individual likely has influenza A or B, and physicians can prescribe antiviral medication. Yet, it may not speak to the strain of the illness, the severity of patient symptoms, or if other complications may occur. New strains may also be present that diagnostic tests cannot detect. This reasoning is why RIDTs must contain the most current strain panels.

Point of Care: Purchasing Rapid Testing Products

Not all rapid testing products are one-and-the-same. The ultimate quality of a test depends on the maker and manufacturer, its specific testing procedures, the size and condition of the sample collection, and the sensitivity range. FDA-cleared rapid qualitative tests are the superior testing products available on the market.

High-quality RIDTs should hit the target with analytical sensitivity across diverse flu strains to meet accuracy needs in physician offices, public health facilities, labs, and emergency rooms. Today’s top tests deliver accurate results for both influenzas A+B and meet federal performance standards.

Point-of-care testing products are valuable in our modern healthcare system. For user-friendly solutions to your point-of-care needs, turn to American Screening. As a provider of quality products, we're here to help fulfill your care and testing requirements. Our selection of rapid flu tests meets FDA approval for a responsive standard of care. With products of proven performance, you can’t go wrong with utilizing American Screening as a supplier. Contact us today with any questions about specifications or availability.

What You Should Know About Rapid Flu Tests


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