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As flu season nears, new test could let doctors diagnose COVID-19 or flu at once

New technology that tests for both viruses could help manage cases, but there are concerns about resource availability.

TAMPA, Fla — As we get closer to flu season, health leaders are growing more concerned about the possibility of the flu and COVID-19 ongoing at the same time.

Some new technology that tests for both viruses could help manage cases, but there are concerns about resource availability.

Friday, a Switzerland-based company received emergency approval from the FDA for a test that can detect both COVID-19 and influenza. Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics said in a company statement, "with the approaching flu season, this new test is particularly important as SARS-CoV-2 and influenza infections can hardly be differentiated alone."

The company also makes machines that can process more than 1,000 tests a day.

It's great news, doctors say, but the concern is if there will be enough tests and equipment to go around.

"If it's limited in supply, it should be targeted to people who are most likely to benefit,” said Dr. Joseph Ladapo of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Specifically the elderly, those in contact with them and those with comorbidities that put them at risk. Doctors also say how we handle flu season amid a pandemic is critical to preventing hospital surges and a public health emergency two times over.

"One of the challenges with COVID is that we haven't....always made wise decisions,” Ladapo said.

Even if the new COVID-19/influenza tests are not widely available come fall and winter, doctors still say there are things we can all do to protect ourselves and our health.

"We are not powerless in the face of this virus," said Dr. Michael Lauzardo of the University of Florida. “So, things like hand washing, maintaining physical distance as recommendations...and by all means continue to use the masks, those things really make a difference."

According to Roche Diagnostics, the COVID-19/influenza test makes it easier and quicker for doctors to diagnose symptoms and treat patients for their illness, which could help better manage the two viruses simultaneously.

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