Posted: Sep 8, 2009 4:23 PM by Rob Krieger
Updated: Sep 16, 2009 1:06 PM
The rapid flu test commonly administered in clinics and hospitals may not be the best tool to diagnose swine flu.
"In adults you can have the H1N1 flu and test negative about 50% of the time," said Dr. Nelson Perret, an emergency room physician at Earl K Long Hospital. "[In children] you can have the flu and the tests still be negative 20 to 30 percent of the time."
Dr. Perret says that's because the rapid flu test is not sensitive enough to diagnose swine flu every time. The test is only used because it can be easily and quickly administered.
A more specific swine flu test called a Reverse Transcription - Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) can be given, but only if a patient is hospitalized.
"We only test those who we think are high risk patients," said Dr. Perret. "We only test those who are going to be put in the hospital and if you're put in the hospital you're gonna get a PCR test."
High risk patients will get treatment with Tamiflu when they're admitted. Tamiflu won't be given to healthier patients.
Healthy people with flu-like symptoms are generally assumed to have swine flu. Dr. Perret says it is best for those people to just stay at home and get some rest.