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Maybe This is What Happened to the Flu
No Twindemic or testing snafu?

As you may remember reading in the Northwest Observer, “Hey What Happened to the Flu?” flu cases are down. We are into a new year, and the report for flu cases is out for Week 52. OHA Flu Bites is published every Friday.

Flu activity remains unusually low and it seems illogical to assume mask wearing and social distancing has stopped all but a mere four flu cases in Oregon for the week, yet cases of COVID-19 remain high. Week 52 of tracking in the 2019-2020 year saw 1586 cases. Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, is zero as well. This same week last year, 11% of all Influenza like illnesses were RSV. Flu, RSV and COVID-19 all have similar and overlapping symptoms.

That leaves us with the tests to differentiate and diagnose. New information has come to light that could be the reason for a lower amount of flu cases than normal for this time of year. Mentioned previously, were a few possible explanations: Northwest Observer has obtained a copy of an email from Leah Horner from Kate Brown’s office. Horner at the Oregon Health Authority sent Brown's office questions posed by different County Commissioners regarding testing.

Horner asks, “Hi there, Is there a 3 in 1 test for Covid, flu and something else?”

The response from Danna Drum the Office of the State Public Health Director was:

“Generally speaking, there are several tests available that can identify influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and/or RSV. Clinical labs in Oregon are adopting some of these methods, and its possible some doctors’ offices are as well. We don’t have numbers of organizations that have adopted these tests in Oregon. OSPH (Oregon State PH Laboratory) has implemented use of the CDC Multiplex PCR assay which tests for Influenza A, Influenza B, and SARSCo-V-2 using one patient specimen. The other test OSPHL uses only identifies SARS-CoV-2.

There is no approved combo test for RSV, Influenza and COVID-19 but the FLU SC2 Multiplex Assay, combo test was granted an Emergency Use Authorization on July 2, 2020. The FDA has since authorized a home based combo test on December 4. Cycle threshold refers to the number of cycles needed to amplify viral RNA to reach a detectable level. What if the same problems with high cycle thresholds exist with this test (they are 40) as the Thermo Fisher COVID-19 only PCR tests? This could be the reason why only COVID-19 is being found. Are these new tests unreliable in diagnosing influenza and RSV?

These are questions that need to be answered by the Oregon Health Authority.


--Nicole Graff

Post Date: 2021-01-07 16:43:53Last Update: 2021-01-07 22:58:49



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