Avera Medical Minute: Diagnosing flu cases sooner with the help of technology

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - This year's flu season is underway and has started showing up in Sioux Falls the last couple of weeks. This flu season Avera is armed with some new technology to diagnose those with the illness quickly.

Avera introduced the flu molecular test back in November and what usually takes days can now be done within minutes.

It may look like a simple black box, but inside the advances in technology are working wonders to help diagnose flu cases sooner.

"What it really means for our patients is getting the best test result possible, molecular really gives us a more sensitive test result which means the patient is getting a result that they can trust and the provider has confidence in," Carmelle Miller, Avera Labs Service Line care functional leader, said.

The flu molecular test is a recent addition to Avera Labs and is a big upgrade from previous influenza test standards.

"Viral cultures are probably historically the gold standard, but that takes up to five days to get a result," Bruce Prouse, clinical vice-president of the laboratory service line for Avera Health System, said. "Clinicians want to have information available so they can make treatment choices within the first 48 hours of symptoms."

As technology changed, so did testing.

"Within about 30 minutes we are doing molecular methods that used to take many days," Prouse said.

It's not just clinics in Sioux Falls with flu molecular testing. It spans across the entire Avera System.

"We want every patient at Avera to be treated the same; we want to have a brand promise," Prouse said. "So, being able to offer the same test, the same standard, the same quality everywhere the patients can be treated similarly."

Which is a good thing for doctors like Johnathon Bannwarth, as the flu bug makes its way to the area.

"This year's flu season, we've started to have some cases here confirmed locally in Sioux Falls over the past one to two weeks," Dr. Bannwarth said. "We've been seeing cases here in our clinic, as well. And then I know the urgent cares and ERs are starting to see cases here in Sioux Falls, too."

The most important thing you need to do is pay attention to flu symptoms to catch the virus quickly. If you have body aches, sore throat, cough, runny nose, congestion, and headaches - be sure to visit your doctor.

"If you notice those symptoms we want you to be coming in right away because those are symptoms pretty characteristic of influenza," Dr. Bannwarth said. "And the sooner we test, the better we treat influenza do come down with it, especially if you're a high-risk patient."

The new test is extremely sensitive and has a 90% detection rate, compared to other influenza tests that are only 50-80% accurate.

It's not too late to get a flu shot, Avera clinics and pharmacies around town are still offering shots for patients.