So if you’re one of many sick Americans right now and have already tested negative for COVID-19, you might be wondering what exactly you have – is it the flu, RSV, or just a cold ?
Unfortunately, finding a test for influenza and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, isn’t as convenient as the rapid COVID-19 test, but there are still a number of options. RSV is a common cause of cold-like symptoms that can be serious for infants and the elderly.
“There is currently no fully home testing for influenza or RSV,” Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman James McKinney told Nexstar.
That’s unfortunate for people who get the flu, because existing antiviral drugs work best when started early, a day or two after symptoms start, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although you cannot get the results at home, there is a home test kit from Labcorp the FDA approved under emergency use authorization earlier this year. You can test for COVID-19, influenza, and RSV by taking a self-swab and sending the kit to a lab for analysis. For those who are uninsured or do not meet the criteria for the $0 initial cost option, the price is $169.
There are also a “handful of home collection tests for influenza/COVID” if not RSV, according to McKinney. CVS also offers in-store flu testing at their Minute Clinic locations.
If you are determined to figure out what you have after experiencing symptoms, health care providers in hospitals and urgent care centers can test for both influenza and RSV.
The “tripledemia” hits the United States
Flu season in the United States continues to worsen as healthcare providers already scramble to treat waves of RSV patients — many of them pediatric cases — who require hospitalization.
While the CDC said Monday there may be reason to hope RSV cases are stabilize in some parts of the country, the same cannot be said for the flu.
Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since.
“It turns out that the cold gathers indoors, all of which is good for respiratory viruses and bad for symptoms,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday at a press conference. “But what I would say is there are other pathogens out there, we want to make sure we’re above those people can do something about it, it’s prevention with the vaccines, flu and COVID, of course. And then intervention with antivirals, again, flu and COVID.
The annual winter flu season doesn’t usually start until December or January, but it started early and was complicated by the simultaneous spread of other viruses.
Measurement of doctor’s office traffic is based on reports of symptoms such as cough and sore throat, not laboratory-confirmed diagnoses. This may therefore include other respiratory diseases.
CDC officials estimate that there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from the flu this year, including 14 pediatric deaths.
Dr. Walensky also touched on COVID-19, which has so far not seen the abnormally high infection rate, but is beginning to rise.
“Over the past week, we have begun to see the unfortunate and expected increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide following the Thanksgiving holiday,” Walensky said. “This increase in cases and hospitalizations is particularly concerning as we enter the winter months when more people are congregating indoors with less ventilation.”