Rapid flu diagnosis to help save lives

Published: 24 Jul 2017

Released by: The Premier

Flu diagnosis in NSW hospitals will drop from four days to under four hours following the roll-out of advanced diagnostic technology across NSW.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this is the largest rapid Influenza testing program in the Southern Hemisphere and could help revolutionise how we fight flu in NSW.

“Influenza comes at a high cost to our communities, hospitals and economy, especially during seasonal outbreaks,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“For the most vulnerable members of our community, this highly infectious virus can cause serious complications and even death. Having real-time diagnostic testing in our public hospitals will help save time, resources and lives.”

With rapid diagnosis, hospital clinicians can make faster triage and treatment decisions. This is crucial given antivirals are most effective when started less than two days from onset of Influenza.

For high risk patients – such as those with cancer, diabetes, or heart disease – faster diagnosis and treatment could reduce time spent in hospital or even be life-saving.

The roll-out of rapid flu testing technology by NSW Health Pathology in public hospitals comes at a critical time.

Reports of Influenza in NSW are up 50 per cent on this time last year. The most common type is Influenza A (H3N2).

In most of Australia, peak flu season usually runs from August to September. This year NSW Health is expecting peak season to hit by the end of July.

Director of Public Health Pathology Dominic Dwyer said rapid diagnosis would be another important tool in the frontline war on Influenza.

“Our partnership with 23 public hospitals across the state provides much-needed access to rapid diagnosis of Influenza (Type A and B) for patients most in need,” Professor Dwyer said.

“By using rapid flu testing at our hospital-based pathology labs, we can arm clinicians with a diagnosis in as little as one to four hours. Before now, this could take one to four days.”

Faster diagnosis could even help clinicians take quicker steps to prevent or control local outbreaks. Precious antibiotics increasingly under threat from resistance to bacteria could also be preserved.

Patients with a negative diagnosis could avoid unnecessary treatment and be discharged earlier. This could lead to hospital beds being freed up for those in greatest need.

Rapid flu testing will be available at NSW Health Pathology labs at the following public hospitals: Armidale, Bega, Blacktown, Bowral, Coffs Harbour, Concord, Dubbo, Gosford, Griffith, Kogarah, Lismore, Liverpool, Nepean, Orange, Prince of Wales Randwick, Royal Prince Alfred, Royal North Shore, Tamworth, Taree, Tweed, Wagga Wagga, Westmead and Wollongong.

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