Would you be able to tell the difference between being sick with COVID-19 or the flu? It is very difficult for healthcare professionals and patients to distinguish between the two infections based on symptoms alone; they can both cause fever, chills, sore throat, and fatigue. Going into the 2021-2022 flu season with COVID-19 cases again on the rise, it is critically important for healthcare providers to be able to simultaneously detect and differentiate between SARS-CoV-2 and influenza.
Experts are approaching the 2021-2022 flu season with caution in part because the last flu season was so atypical. In a “normal” year, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there are around 1 billion cases of the flu around the globe, while reports show “major reductions in influenza activity” in mid- to late-2020. The 2020-2021 flu season looked different than previous years as safety precautions such as quarantines, social distancing, and mask requirements that were implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 infection also drastically reduced seasonal flu activity.
Going into the 2021-2022 flu season, with many restrictions lifted, experts warn we may see a surge in both influenza and COVID-19 infections. With the looming threat of increased infections and inability to distinguish between flu and COVID-19 symptoms, how can doctors accurately diagnose patients? When patients present severe acute respiratory symptoms, experts recommend the use of diagnostic multiplex testing, which is designed to detect multiple viruses in the same specimen to determine the source of infection.
Peter Friebe, Ph.D., senior manager of clinical application and marketing support, and Jelena Feenstra, Ph.D., senior manager of global scientific communications at Thermo Fisher Scientific, recently presented a webinar with Labroots on how Thermo Fisher’s emergency use authorized multiplex testing kit, the TaqPath COVID-19 Flu A, Flu B Combo Kit*, enables healthcare professionals to quickly and accurately diagnose patients with influenza A, influenza B, or COVID-19. The kit’s streamlined workflow and automatically-interpreted test results allow for a sample-to-result turnaround time of just about three hours.
The TaqPath COVID-19 Flu A, Flu B Combo Kit can detect and differentiate between influenza A, influenza B, and SARS-CoV-2 in a sample and can identify cases of COVID-19 and flu co-infection. Although cases of co-infection were not common following the introduction of public health measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, with an expected surge in flu cases in the winter there is a possibility of increased reports this year.
It is essential that healthcare providers can quickly differentiate if a patient has the flu or COVID-19, primarily to optimize patient treatment and improve outcomes, but also to contain the virus’s spread and prevent cross-infections, particularly in hospital or communal living settings.
In preparation for the 2021-2022 flu season, labs need rapid diagnostic solutions to detect and differentiate between flu and COVID-19. To hear how labs are preparing, watch the on-demand webinar.
To learn more about Thermo Fisher Scientific’s COVID-19 and flu testing solutions, please visit https://www.thermofisher.com/covid19flu
*For In Vitro Diagnostic Use. For Emergency Use Authorization Only | Rx Only