JACKSONVILLE, Fla — You may soon be able to get one test to determine if you have the flu, COVID-19 or another respiratory virus.
According to Dr. Yvette McCarter, the director of the microbiology lab at the University of Florida Health, the hospital will get tests from a few manufacturers that detect the three viruses in the next few weeks. At least one of the tests also detects other respiratory viruses as well.
Combined tests are nothing new in public health, she said. They've been doing them for years. Adding COVID-19 into the mix during a pandemic and flu season, however, is new.
"The ability to test for multiple viruses at the same time has definitely revolutionized what we do," McCarter said.
"The ability to actually add SARS COV2 to this I think, again, is just upping the bar. It’s an even bigger step so that we can give all of the information in one test to clinicians to help their patients," she said.
The tests will be from companies they use now.
"I call them the trusted manufacturers that we have gone with because their assays, their tests are so good," she said.
The manufacturers' current tests' accuracy rate is more than 90 percent, McCarter said. She expects the new combined tests to be about the same.
"We already have that instrumentation in our laboratory, and so it actually kind of gave us a leg up with the company and being able to get these relatively scarce new tests," McCarter said.
There will be a limited supply of the tests, she said, and therefore, the tests will be limited to those with symptoms.
"Right now, we’re just thinking about COVID, but a lot of these respiratory viruses and respiratory pathogens have overlapping symptoms and so just based on how somebody looks, how somebody feels, other symptoms that they have, you can’t definitely say, 'oh, you have the flu,' or, 'oh, you have COVID,' so this test will definitely be able to distinguish all of those," McCarter said.
She said this flu season, get your flu shot and continue to wear a mask and social distance.
"So that we don’t see not only the transmission of COVID but also the transmission of other respiratory viruses that we have seen in other respiratory seasons," McCarter said.
The test will be a nasal swab and all are molecular tests. Most have short wait times for results, with the rapid being 45 minutes.