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Tag Archives: Influenza —

Rapid PCR rules as labs ready flu arsenal

December 2018—With the memory of the 2017–2018 “high-severity” influenza season fresh in mind—49 million cases, 960,000 hospitalizations, a marginally effective vaccine, 79,000 deaths—clinical laboratories have been bracing for the customary annual surge in emergency room, outpatient clinic, and physician office influenza test orders. Although flu admissions have been rising somewhat, it is too soon to know how the season will play out, but laboratories are hoping for a season closer to average. Avoiding a repeat of last year’s travails—lengthy turnaround times, supply shortages, and the need to triage patients for testing—is a must, many laboratory directors say. “We had difficulty keeping up with last year’s demand. It was extremely time-consuming,” says Mary Kay O’Connor, national laboratory director at Summit Health Management, the management arm of the Summit Medical Group, an 800-provider practice on the East Coast.

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Labs take stock of surprising flu season

March 2018—In a severe flu season that started early, laboratories faced unprecedented test volumes, used new testing platforms, and negotiated vendor supply shortages. When laboratory staff at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock began seeing a rising number of requests for respiratory tests, and five positive flu results, in September 2017, they suspected they were in for a record flu season, says Sherry Childress, BSMT(ASCP), technical chief, molecular diagnostics and immunology.

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In flu season management, POC molecular to the fore

May 2017—Stacked against some of the nation’s previous bouts with influenza—such as the 2014–15 season—the 2016–17 flu season didn’t break records for drama. To be sure, every flu season is different, and regional variation was prominent. In Central Texas, some outbreaks appeared to start later than usual, but the dominant viruses were the same as last year’s—H1N1, H3N2, and influenza B—says Bob Fader, PhD, chief of the virology and microbiology laboratory at Baylor Scott & White Health, Temple, Tex. The strains identified were a good match with this year’s trivalent and quadrivalent vaccine. Testing volume was up, as were positive PCRs.

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FDA, CDC, and tests steer flu Dx into new season

December 2013—What Soren Kierkegaard said about life applies just as well to flu seasons: They are understood backwards, but they have to be lived forwards. They’re not easy to forecast. And perhaps that’s one reason why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just announced a “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge,” offering $75,000 to the competitor who most successfully predicts the timing, peak, and intensity of the 2013–14 flu season using social media data.

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