Swine Flu (cont.)
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Swine Flu Diagnosis
Swine influenza can be confirmed by culturing respiratory secretions such as sputum or nasal/throat secretions, but this is expensive and not often done. Rapid tests are available to give a general idea if an influenza strain is present, but they are far from perfect and may not pick up swine influenza or even regular seasonal influenza. In fact, the CDC does not recommend the use of rapid tests because the results are often inaccurate. Specific testing for the genetic material of the virus, such as the test called polymerase chain reaction or PCR, may be done at state health departments or at the CDC. Your local laboratory will have a procedure in place to send specimens to the health department when necessary. H1N1 and H3N2v strains are detected with similar methods, and new tests are being produced to detect these strains quickly and economically in hospitals and clinics (most will test only for H1N1 and possibly H3N2).
It is not possible or economically feasible to test every symptomatic patient for swine flu once a community has multiple cases. If there are large numbers of cases of swine flu present in the community, the laboratory will usually stop doing specific tests for swine flu and will simply recommend that patients with symptoms be assumed to have the infection.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2013
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