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Oct 16, 2018Print this page

The Top 3 Methods For Diagnosing Influenza


With flu season underway, it’s crucial for clinics, hospitals and diagnostic labs around the world to keep in stock the highest quality specimen-collection products. Even though this season shouldn't be as bad as last year's, we all know that the best defense is a good offense. As health care professionals know, the best way to stop the flu is with fast diagnosis and immediate treatment.

There are a number of methods for diagnosing the influenza virus. Learning the proper way to swab for the flu is a crucial. High-quality products including swabs, transport media and test kits help in identifying and reducing the potential spread of influenza.

The History of Viral Cultures

For centuries, many suffered and died from what we now know was influenza. For those who were critically ill, viral culture testing was provided for enhanced treatments or epidemiology. Antivirals were very limited, and often not prescribed. Today, viral cultures continue to provide conclusive diagnosis. But results can take 24 – 48 hours, and depending on cultures, up to 10 days. Viral culture tests are an extremely accurate and conclusive method for diagnosing influenza. Viral culture tests can determine the strain of virus and have become the most common test to help identify and track the spread of flu. 

How to Diagnose Influenza 

Today’s advanced technology provides highly effective, accurate methods for diagnosing the flu. The Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), or “real time,” molecular test, affords detection of influenza genetic material. Continued advancements have pushed Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Testing (RIDT) into virtually all levels of health care. RIDTs are used to test patients who are presenting flu-like symptoms. Each of these test methods provide unique benefits. Depending on a patient’s circumstances and symptoms, each of these test methods could potentially be the best choice for diagnosis. 

Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests (RIDTs) 

Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Tests (RIDTs) are the fastest method for diagnosing influenza, yielding results in as little as 15 minutes. Acceptable specimens may be collected using a nasopharyngeal (NP), or throat swab. The advantages of fast results and ease of specimen collection make RIDTs the practical choice for front line diagnosis, allowing healthcare professionals to make prompt decisions and choices in treatments. 

The Best Test Deserves the Best Swab 

Puritan’s PurFlock Ultra® flocked swabs were designed for use with our UniTranz-RT® Media Transport Systems. They are ideal for test methods that require viral culture, RT-PCR, and RIDT, and they’re offered in 1ml or 3ml fills with a variety of swab styles to accommodate specific uses.

For nasopharyngeal (NP) swab specimens: your best choice is either mini-tip or ultrafine flocked swabs. The standard tipped swab affords greater ease and additional tip surface area in the collection of throat specimens. 

UniTranz-RT® Media used in conjunction with PurFlock Ultra® flocked swabs, once validated, provide superior specimen collection, transport, and elution compared with traditional spun swabs, affording higher specimen access to the test methodology of choice. 


For more information on how Puritan products can help you meet your flu testing needs, please contact us today. 

flu season 2018 


Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC): Influenza (Flu)  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/rapidclin.htm

Lab Tests Online®: Influenza Tests

World Health Organization:Influenza

Topics: Flu, Flocked Swabs, Media Transport Systems, Diagnostics


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