Friday, February 08, 2008

New test promises to quickly tell if you've got seasonal flu

Have you ever wondered whether your cough, fever or achy head was really caused by the flu? With the help of a new test, doctors will be able to tell more quickly whether you are suffering from the flu or another problem.

The Food and Drug Administration announced in January that it had cleared a new test, called ProFlu+, for marketing. According to the manufacturer, Prodesse Inc. of Milwaukee, the test can detect four strains of the flu virus in less than three hours. It can also detect bronchiolitis, a common respiratory illness that affects children ages 2 and younger.

The quickness of the test means that you can get treated for the flu sooner, and maybe have a better chance of getting well. Respiratory illnesses are best treated within the first two days of feeling sick, according to Daniel Schulz, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

About 5 percent to 20 percent of Americans suffer from the flu each year. Unfortunately, about 200,000 are so sick they have to be hospitalized and 36,000 die. Remember: The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get your annual vaccination. But if you do end up feeling sick, it's best to see your doctor and make sure you are treated the right way.

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