Swine Flu Testing

POSTED: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 - 7:25am

UPDATED: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 - 3:23pm

Fears of swine flu are creating an influx of patients in the borderland and now local labs are working overtime to test for the flu.
Flu season may be wrapping up, but the lab at Las Palmas Medical Center is still testing samples from dozens of patients complaining of flu-like symptoms.
How do they determine who has the virus, no flu, or possibly the swine flu? It takes several steps to find out and it starts with a simple questionnaire asking the patient if they have a cough, fever or sore throat. If the answer is yes, a quick sample is taken.

"We'll swab both nostrils of the patient. We'll do a really quick screen for flu A and flu B,"explains Todd Chambers, Director for Infection Control at Las Palmas.

The difference between the two is flu B is your regular seasonal flu and flu A is the H1N1 virus, a strain that mutates and could likely be what is now known as swine flu.
The problem is the symptoms are basically the same. That is where the testing comes in.

"This will go upstairs, they'll take this out , swab it on a little card and it will tell you positive A or B. If it comes back positive for influenza a, then we do a second swab which goes down to the city health. We also do two sets of blood vials and those go to the CDC," says Caryn Iverson, Chief Nursing Officer for Las Palmas.

If the city health department's test comes back positive for swine flu or even if it does not and they find the results suspicious, the sample is sent to the Centers for Disease Control for a final answer.

If you are wondering how long it takes before you know whether you have the regular flu or swine strain, results from the quick screen taken by a doctor or nurse take about 20 minutes to get back. Samples that are sent to the city for testing could take about one to two days to receive, and results from the CDC can take between five to ten days.

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