OhioHealth enlists new tool to detect flu and COVID at the same time

New test faster, more sensitive and only requires one swab

COLUMBUS — As of early November, OhioHealth hospitals have the capability to screen patients for the flu and COVID at the same time.

“As we enter into flu season it is going to be challenging for healthcare providers to differentiate patients with flu from those with COVID,” said Juanita Swickard, OhioHealth Senior Director of Laboratory Services. “Flu symptoms overlap with the symptoms of COVID, so in certain circumstances, it is important to test for both.”

This combined test will be used for patients who are admitted to the hospital who meet specific criteria for testing. In the past, this patient population would have had two different tests — a rapid flu test and a rapid COVID test.

The combined test, which consists of a rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) flu and COVID test, is more sensitive and faster than other rapid tests and healthcare practitioners can collect a sample with just one swab instead of two.

Though the test is only for select hospitalized patients and is not available on demand to the public, due to a limited shortage of reagent, OhioHealth sees it as another critical tool for navigating the coming flu season.

“The best approach for those concerned about their flu risk this season is to get a flu shot and continue taking precautions to avoid exposure to COVID, including social distancing and wearing masks in accordance with CDC guidelines,” said Swickard.

OhioHealth hospitals include OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, OhioHealth Doctors Hospital, OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital, OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital, OhioHealth Hardin Memorial Hospital, OhioHealth Marion General Hospital, OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital, OhioHealth Shelby Hospital, OhioHealth Grove City Methodist Hospital and OhioHealth Berger Hospital.

For more information, please visit our website at www.ohiohealth.com.

New test faster, more sensitive and only requires one swab