By Dr. Maria Simbra


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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Ashley Bodner’s symptoms started brewing overnight.

“My body hurt, my… everything hurt. I had chills, fever, a cough. The thing that drove me to the emergency room, though, was feeling like I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “Obviously, breathing is pretty important, so.”

But was it the flu? If it was, she wanted treatment right away to shorten the course.

“The drug that we use, Tamiflu, really should be started within 48 hours, and many patients come in right around that time,” said Dr. David Abt, an emergency medicine physician at Canonsburg Hospital.

The doctors did a rapid flu test, but not the old kind.

The old kind would check for pieces of flu virus or the immune response to the virus and give a result that was accurate only half the time. The confirmatory test result would come a day later.

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Ashley got a new kind of test — just as rapid. But a fast version of the old confirmatory test, which checks for virus DNA.

“It’s basically a really small Q-tip that I’m going to stick inside your nose,” Abt told Bodner.

“It was just a swab on the inside of the nose. Nothing invasive, and it was really, really fast,” Bodner said.

The sample goes straight from the emergency department to a lab on site, where the test is run right away.

The new rapid test requires new, special lab equipment from one of three manufacturers.

In 30 minutes, you would know for sure, flu or not, and even Influenza type A or B, no secondary test needed.

“It’s 99-plus percent accurate,” Kelly Cole, PhD, an AHN microbiologist said.

Ashley had the swab, then went for a chest x-ray. When she got back, the results surprised her.

“The strep test was negative, but you have the flu. And I was like, ‘The flu?’ And he said, yeah, it was Influenza A, so. People like throw around, ‘I have the flu,’ as just like a term for being sick? I guess. But the actual flu was worse than I expected,” she said.

She was able to start Tamiflu and started to feel better after five days.

“I do have four kids, I have a nephew that’s 7 months old, my grandma’s 90, so it was really nice to know that I had the flu, so I knew to stay away from those people,” she said.

Dr. Maria Simbra