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Swine Flu and Swine Flu Testing
Swine flu was a major public health issue during the winter of 2009-2010, and doctors faced a glut of patients demanding their blood be tested for swine flu. Though swine flu tests exist, there isn't actually such a thing as a blood test for this strain of influenza. Read on to learn why swine flu tests are important, what kind of tests do exist, and who should be tested. You will also find links to many other great Bright Hub articles about swine flu.
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What's the Deal About Swine Flu Tests?
In the winter of 2009-2010, widespread fear gripped the developed world. A new illness, “swine flu", also known as H1N1 flu or the H1N1 virus, was spreading rapidly. Many feared a massive pandemic. Fortunately, swine flu turned out to be mild, with symptoms no more dangerous than the seasonal flu. A vaccine was developed and the spread of the virus was brought under control.
However, swine flu continues to be a major concern for health care providers. Flu isn't just an annoyance; it can be deadly. In fact, in 1918, a major flu outbreak killed between 20 million and 40 million people, more people than were killed in World War I (Billings, 1997). Health care workers need accurate flu tests so they can keep tabs on major outbreaks and prevent tragedies like 1918 from happening again.
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There Is No Swine Flu Blood Test
There are many types of swine flu tests available to clinicians, but there is no swine flu test that requires a blood sample (which is good news for those who fear needles!). All the currently available tests rely on a swab of the throat to collect cells. These are evaluated either onsite (as with rapid flu tests) or in a laboratory.
Rapid tests have advantages and disadvantages. Rapid tests are less costly and much more convenient for diagnosing swine flu. Since anti-viral drugs such as Tamiflu are supposed to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, a test that takes 3 days isn't very useful. However, concerns have been raised about the reliability of rapid tests. Some argue that these tests are hopelessly inaccurate, returning false positives for up to 90% of patients. Others maintain that these tests are sensitive to misuse, but are very accurate when performed correctly (Pollack, 2009).
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Staff. (2009, 1 July). Interim Antiviral Guidance for 2008-09. CDC.gov. Retrieved 16 July, 2010 from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals
Pollack, A. (2009, 5 August). Quick Tests for the Flu Found Often Inaccurate. The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/health/06flu.html