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Rapid Flu Test Most Accurate for Young Kids
Date:2/15/2010

But positive results are more accurate than negative findings, researchers find

MONDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A widely available rapid influenza diagnostic test is good, but not perfect, in determining whether a child has the flu, a new study shows.

The findings are applicable to both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu that recently swept across the globe, said Dr. Andrea T. Cruz, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and lead author of a report published online Feb. 15 in the journal Pediatrics.

The study examined records of more than 2,600 children taken to the hospital with suspected influenza between May and September of 2009 and compared the results of a rapid influenza diagnostic test, which can give results in minutes, with two laboratory tests that require hours or days for diagnosis. A quick diagnosis is often desirable, but questions have arisen about the accuracy of the rapid diagnosis tests.

The study used one of the 10 commercially available rapid tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It was done because "doctors have been basing clinical decisions on rapid influenza diagnostic tests that were not designed with H1N1 in mind," Cruz said.

The study compared the test's sensitivity (the ability to determine whether someone has an infection) and specificity (the ability to rule out the presence of an infection) with a laboratory test. The rapid test was 45 percent sensitive and 98.6 percent specific, the study found.

"The rapid influenza diagnostic test is quite specific but lacks sensitivity," Cruz said. That means a positive rapid test result was "highly accurate" in diagnosing H1N1 infection, but a negative result did not rule out the possibility of infection, the study found.

Sensitivity was significantly higher -- 55.5 percent -- in younger children, particularly those under 2 years old, a group more
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