Latest on the flu test & how it impacts patient care

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Emergency departments like the one at Yale New Haven Hospital are typically where patients with flu-like symptoms are first seen.

“This is the instrument that is used for the rapid influenza test,” says Dr. Marie-Louis Landry.

The PCR test begins with a swab taken from the nose, then analyzed at the virology lab.

Dr. Landry says, “This one can do 48 samples at a time.”

She heads up the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Yale New Haven Hospital, “Now the test, that used to take several days, we can have a result in 15 – 30 minutes.”

But there are challenges to detecting the flu.

“One thing with influenza and why it’s such a problem is that it is constantly changing,” says Dr. Landry, “Our diagnostic test could potentially miss it because it has changed and our tests were made to match what has been circulating.”

There is a more sophisticated PCR done here to address that – the staff here works closely with the CDC.

Dr. Landry says, “When the virus changes, the CDC changes the test to be able to target those new viruses. So we can update as soon as the changes are made.”

What goes on here has Yale Medicine immunologist, Dr. Richard Martinello’s attention.

He explains, “One of the things we’re studying with influenza is how we diagnosed the flu in the lab.”

And how that impacts patient care.

“Our hope is,” says Dr. Martinello, “That in implementing the more rapid flu test that we are able to get more patients in and out of the emergency department a little more quickly and if they do need to be hospitalized, they get to the right bed in the hospital the first time.”

Critical– with warnings that this could be a nasty flu season.

Dr. Martinello points out that even during a mild flu season, thousands of people die of the flu in the United States.

Tomorrow at 5:30 – why the flu is more serious in the winter and a clinical trial is underway — to better protect a vulnerable population against the flu.

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