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Influenza (Seasonal Flu) - Exams and Tests

Doctors can diagnose influenza (flu) using your symptoms alone if many cases of a similar illness have occurred in the community and if the local health department has confirmed a flu outbreak.

Tests to confirm you have the flu and to find out the type of virus may be important if:

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  • The results may affect treatment decisions. During a confirmed flu outbreak, though, testing may not be needed even if treatment with an antiviral medicine is being considered.
  • In addition to flu-like symptoms, you have any unusual symptoms that suggest another condition.
  • Health authorities have not identified any other cases of flu in your area.

Testing may involve blood tests (rarely used) or a culture to identify the virus. Some cultures take 24 to 48 hours for results, so they will not help your doctor decide whether to prescribe an antiviral medicine. A rapid flu test is now available that gives results in 30 minutes. Although this test is not 100% accurate, it can be useful when deciding whether to use an antiviral medicine.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: January 31, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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