How Combined COVID-19 and Flu Testing Can Help Prevent a “Twindemic”

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Although COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates are improving, roughly 40% of the U.S. population remains unvaccinated and the danger of the virus resurging remains. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine remains the Number One preventative measure against contracting the virus but identifying cases and contact tracing when they occur are critical measures for keeping infection rates on a downward trend. In addition, the state of the pandemic is further compromised by the upcoming yearly flu season, which is forecast to be even more unpredictable than in years past.

Last year, COVID-19 prevention measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing and quarantining also helped prevent the spread of other illnesses like the flu and the common cold. That sounds like good news, but there’s a downside: Since so few had the flu last year, Americans have built up less natural immunity. So this year, when we’d typically see the WHO and FDA identify which flu strains are expected and recommend the optimal vaccine, the significantly fewer data points make it difficult to gauge which strains are likely and how dangerous the flu season will be.

As the status of the pandemic—or perhaps the “twindemic” as the pandemic and flu season converge—remains ominous and unclear, the need for COVID-19 testing becomes that much more important. It is critical for clinicians and patients respectively to give and receive a diagnosis that is swift and accurate to make acute treatment and management decisions.

Testing is particularly invaluable as the clinical overlap between COVID-19, the flu, and other respiratory viruses is very similar. Save for the unique symptoms like loss of taste that typically indicate a COVID-19 infection, it is otherwise reasonable to expect that doctors will find it difficult to distinguish viruses based on symptoms like a fever, cough, or the chills without a definitive test. Patients who used to ask, “Do I have a cold or the flu?” will now likely ask, “Do I have COVID-19 or the flu?” And, while uncommon, co-infection – both viruses occurring simultaneously in the same individual – can occur, adding another layer of concern and emphasizing the need for preparation.

In the age of the pandemic, using one test or the other to “rule out” one infection is an incomplete and potentially dangerous diagnostic strategy. Combined rapid antigen testing is the best choice to combat a twindemic as it is effective in diagnosing both COVID-19 and the flu quickly and accurately. The BD Veritor™ SARS-CoV-2 and Flu A+B* combo rapid test offers simple sample collection, and digitally read results. With results for each from a single swab in just 15 minutes, the testing process is greatly streamlined and simplified.

Clinicians have the opportunity to access the tools they need now. Easy-to-use rapid antigen combination tests will help facilitate the best diagnostics possible, leading to faster and more appropriate treatment.

Dr. Jeff Andrews is the Medical Affairs Vice President at BD Integrated Diagnostics Solutions. To learn how BD is supporting healthcare professionals amid the COVID-19 pandemic, visit bdveritor.com.

*Disclaimer: This product has not been FDA cleared or approved, but has been authorized by FDA under an EUA for use by authorized laboratories. This product has been authorized only for the detection of proteins from SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and influenza B, not for any other viruses or pathogens. The emergency use of this product is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection and/or diagnosis of COVID-19 under Section 564(b)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the declaration is terminated or authorization is revoked sooner.