The novel coronavirus has been compared to the flu almost from the moment it emerged in late 2019. They share a variety of symptoms, and in many cases, an influenza test is part of the process for diagnosing COVID-19.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are now developing a new sensor that can tell the difference between the two illnesses and test for both simultaneously. The development comes as public health experts anticipate a spike in cases during the fall and winter. Knowing whether a patient is sick with the flu or coronavirus is essential because it informs treatment decisions and infection control measures, potentially saving tax dollars and reducing work for medical personnel.
"With a second wave of the coronavirus likely to appear right as we get into flu season, there's an urgent need for diagnostics that can differentiate between COVID-19 and influenza," said Deji Akinwande, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
A dual test improves on current options in several ways, the researchers say. It's more convenient for patients who wouldn't have to get multiple tests done. It also saves time for medical personnel when resources are stretched thin. A dual test would also reduce the usage of nasal swabs—since one is needed for each COVID-19 or influenza test—amid a shortage of equipment.
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