Sunday, December 04, 2022

Testing for the flu can help you get faster treatment. But why is it so hard to get a RAT for influenza?

Flu cases are surging around Australia.

Two years of COVID restrictions have left the population with little natural immunity for influenza and we head into the winter months with both viruses circulating in the community.

Authorities are urging people to get vaccinated against the flu and dip back into their COVID prevention tool kit of masks, vaccination and social distancing.

And then there’s testing. You can get tested to see if you have the flu after contacting a doctor, but rapid antigen tests are another story.

Can you get rapid antigen tests for the flu?

Yes. The technology is available, but the demand for flu RATs isn’t there yet, University of Queensland virologist Kirsty Short says.

“There hasn’t been the demand, I mean, rapid antigen testing has been around as a technology for other pathogens,” Dr. Short says.

“For example, HIV has rapid antigen tests and that’s been used widely.”

That could change following their common use amid the COVID pandemic.

She says the idea of ​​widespread use of rapid antigen testing is relatively new.

A Hand Squeezes A Dropper Above A Test Tube Sitting
Rapid antigen tests are available for influenza, but they’re often expensive and hard to come by.,Unsplash: Annie Spratt,

At the moment rapid antigen tests for the flu are expensive and not as widely available as COVID tests.

“So, I think that makes it difficult, but if we were in a situation where they could be rolled out to the general public I think it would be useful,” Dr. Short says.

“The easier, and cheaper these tests can become the more widely they can be used.”

Is it worth getting tested for the flu?

Testing has plenty of benefits, Dr. Short says.

Confirmation of an infection can determine how quickly you’re able to access treatments.

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