Tests for Flu Not Always Reliable

by Audry Kensicki on November 11, 2009 at 5:09 am

As flu season continues to run rampant throughout the United States, measures to detect which strain you have may be getting easier.

Currently the "rapid test" is used by doctors to detect which strain of the flu patients have. It does not test specifically for H1N1, which is a sub-type of influenza a, but new tests are on their way to the market which will test for H1N1.

The current rapid tests do give quick results, but they’re not always reliable.

"They have found, particularly with H1N1, that the correct answer is about 50/50," said Vicki Whitacre of the Zanesville Muskingum County Health Department. "About fifty-percent of the time it is positive when you have the disease and fifty-percent of the time it’s not going to be positive and you have to have the special test that’s run through the CDC."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, ninety-nine-percent of the circulating flu viruses are H1N1. Seasonal strains of the flu are not common this early.

Whitacre says no test is one-hundred-percent accurate and the rapid test can be helpful.

"it can be helpful if it’s positive, then you know you need to be treating the person, especially if they’re severely ill," she said. "It also may rule out that there is something else going on, like a bacterial Infection that’s causing this fever."

Whitacre says although the rapid test is not pleasant, it is critical for doctors to swab the back of the nasal passage. She says the virus is often found in the back part of the cavity.