SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) — With the start of school around the corner, so is the flu season.
Each year, patients with the flu pack emergency rooms and clinics. 2017 was one of the worst seasons in years.
The federal government has recently fast-tracked two companies to develop over the counter in-home flu tests.
“In a bad season, emergency rooms can be overwhelmed and we have longer stays in the waiting room,” said Dr. Joseph Bledsoe, Intermountain Medical Center.
Bledsoe is an emergency physician at Intermountain Medical Center. He says in-home flu tests could be a game-changer in preventing a flu epidemic.
“Patients sitting in the waiting room of the emergency department or insta care could potentially spread the flu to other people. Being able to test at home to potentially prevent the spread of the disease could be important.”
According to the CDC, each year, between 12,000 and 49,000 people die of the flu. The illness sends 700,000 people to the hospital. Last flu season, a record number of 172 children died from the flu.
The Department of Health and Human Services has pumped $24 million for developing two over-the-counter diagnostic tests for influenza.
“Being able to test in the home would be important as long as the results would come back and the patient would be treated within that 72-hour window that we typically recommend,” said Bledsoe.
The goal is to have the results within half an hour.
The hope of these rapid in-home tests include:
- reduce exposure
- make it affordable
- receive treatment faster
- track cases each year.
The in-home method could utilize telehealth medicine for getting prescribed anti-viral medication faster which means the medication would be more effective. It could also make drive through pharmacy windows or medicine delivery more popular.
HHS is giving funding to two companies to develop the in-home tests: Cue Health and Diassess. There is no word on when they might be available to consumers.