If you may have respiratory signs as we head in the direction of winter and flu season, might or not it’s COVID or the flu? Or one thing else fully?
Now, we now have a spread of house exams that may distinguish between flu and COVID with one swab. They use expertise you is perhaps used to. They’re speedy antigen exams or RATs.
Here’s what that you must know concerning the exams, why they is perhaps helpful, and what they don’t inform us.
What’s new about these exams?
Most folks have been launched to RATs whereas testing at house for COVID.
But RATs to detect the flu have been accessible for years, albeit utilized by well being employees to check sufferers.
The newest RATs are totally different for 2 causes. One, they detect each COVID and flu with one swab (a “combo” check). Two, they can be utilized at house.
The first of those combo house exams for flu/COVID was permitted in September 2022. Now a number of are in the marketplace.
These exams allow you to verify, with one check equipment, if you’re contaminated with two forms of flu (influenza A and B) and SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID).
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How do they work?
These RATs include antibodies that may detect influenza A, influenza B, and SARS-CoV-2.
Some kits have a check cassette with one nicely so as to add drops to and one window labelled: C (management), A (influenza A), B (influenza B) and T (check for COVID).
Some exams have two wells and two check home windows. You view the influenza ends in one window and the COVID ends in the opposite.
In the influenza window you will note markings C, A and B. If a line turns into seen at A (and C), you may have examined constructive for influenza A. If a line turns into seen at B (and C), you might be constructive for influenza B. If traces are seen at A, B and C you may have examined constructive for each influenza A and B.
If both A or B has a line however not C, or if none of them do, the check is invalid and you will want to take a brand new one.
The COVID window works the identical manner as in an ordinary RAT for COVID. If a line turns into seen at C and T, you might be COVID-positive. If there’s a line at C however not T, you might be COVID-negative. If there isn’t a line at C the check is invalid.
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Why take the check? 3 causes
If you may have respiratory signs, there are some sensible causes for understanding whether or not you might be constructive for COVID or flu.
One, if you may have COVID, this may have an effect on the timing of your booster vaccine. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommends adults wait six months after a COVID an infection to get a booster to extend the time you may have protecting immunity. So it helps to know in case you have been contaminated.
Two, in case you want antiviral therapy, the drugs differ relying on whether or not you may have flu or COVID.
Three, understanding you may have flu or COVID means you’ll be able to take steps to guard others. This might imply working at house, avoiding contact with weak folks, and carrying a masks in firm.
Which check to make use of? When to make use of it?
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) lists permitted exams on its web site. Type the time period “mixture” within the search field. All combo exams at present listed use nasal swabs to gather the pattern.
Most are listed as “very excessive sensitivity”. This means they get the identical end in detecting constructive circumstances because the gold normal PCR check 95% of the time. The others have “excessive sensitivity” (90% settlement with a PCR).
The greatest time to take the check is inside 4 days of growing signs, as that is when it’s best to detect each flu and COVID. The exams are extra dependable in case you have signs.
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What if I’ve signs however the check is detrimental?
One chance is that your viral load was not excessive sufficient to be detected. You might take one other check a day or so later to verify once more.
Another is you could have a special virus. Viruses that trigger respiratory signs embody rhinoviruses, adenoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus and customary chilly coronaviruses.
Other pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) or well being circumstances can even trigger respiratory signs. If you might be involved, seek the advice of your physician for medical recommendation.
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What else ought to I do know?
As every check differs, ensure you observe the directions for that particular check.
The value of combo kits marketed on-line varies from A$8.95 to $59 (excluding supply) so it pays to buy round.
It’s value attempting to keep away from catching the flu somewhat than testing for it later. Flu vaccination reduces your probabilities of catching the flu by 40-60% when the vaccine is nicely matched to circulating strains. Flu vaccines for the 2023 flu season can be found now.
Thea van de Mortel teaches into the Master of Infection Prevention and Control program at Grififth University.
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