Influenza Tests

Influenza Tests-Why am I having this test?

Influenza Tests may also be used to help determine a treatment plan or to monitor influenza activity within a community.

You may have an influenza test to help your health care provider determine what type of respiratory infection you have.

What is being tested?

This test checks a sample of bodily fluid (secretions) for the presence of the influenza virus.

What kind of sample is taken?

  • A sample of secretions is required for this test. The sample is collected by swabbing your nose or throat.

What happens during the test?

Your health care provider may perform one or both of the following tests:

  • A rapid influenza test. This test is more accurate when completed within the first 3–4 days after your symptoms begin. A test done on nasal secretions is more accurate than a test done on a sample taken from your throat.
    • Depending on the method, a rapid influenza test may be completed in less than 30 minutes in your health care provider’s office. It can also be sent to a lab, with the results becoming available the same day.
    • Depending on the particular type of test used, this test can identify the type of influenza, usually type A or type B. This may help to monitor influenza activity within a community.
  • A viral culture. This test also requires the collection of secretions from your nose or throat. The sample is then sent to a lab for processing. This may take several days to complete.

How are the results reported?

Your test results will be reported as either positive or negative. The normal result for this test is:

  • Negative for influenza viruses of type A or type B.

Sometimes, the test results may report that a condition is present when it is not present (false-positive result).

Sometimes, the test results may report that a condition is not present when it is present (false-negative result).

What do the results mean?

  • A positive test result means that you have influenza.
  • A negative test result means that you likely do not have influenza.
    • A false-negative result can occur. False-negative results are more likely to happen at the height of the influenza season.

Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.

Questions to ask your health care provider

Ask your health care provider, or the department that is doing the test:

  • When will my results be ready?
  • How will I get my results?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What other tests do I need?
  • What are my next steps?

Summary

  • An influenza test helps your health care provider check for the presence of the influenza virus.
  • A sample of fluid (secretions) is required for this test. The sample is collected by swabbing your nose or throat.
  • Your health care provider may use a rapid influenza test or a viral culture, or both, to test your sample. Results of a rapid test can be given within 30 minutes. Results of a viral culture can take several days.
  • Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.
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