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Doctors warn rapid flu tests can give false negative results

According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of reported flu cases have increased across the country and in Texas during the month of December. (Photo: Pixabay / MGN Online)

According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of reported flu cases have increased across the country and in Texas during the month of December.

Austin Public Health's latest numbers show in Travis County two cases of flu-related deaths have been reported this year.

Dr. Lamia Kadir with Family Medicine Austin says during the month of December, she's seen several patients a week reporting flu symptoms.

"The common symptoms [are] high fever, 100.4 or higher, runny nose, horrible body aches, usually it hits them like a train," says Dr. Kadir.

If a patient is suspected of having the flu, the CDC recommends doctors administer a "rapid flu test" to determine the diagnosis.

The test takes about 15 minutes to complete, but, according to the CDC, isn't always reliable.

"It's a tool, it is not the primary way to make the diagnosis," says Dr. Kadir.

According to Dr. Kadir, when a community is experiencing a peak in flu cases, the possibility of a false negative result is extremely high.

Kadir says this can be dangerous, especially for vulnerable populations, "The real danger for a false negative would be for children less than 5 years especially less than 2 and for geriatric populations above 65."

Dr. Kadir says because of the high risks of a false negative, often doctors will consider a patient's described symptoms when diagnosing the flu rather than the test results.

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