The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that the current 2014-2015 flu season may be more severe than usual. CDC officials indicate that a nasty strain of flu is going around that is more dangerous to high-risk individuals. In addition, CDC officials believe the current flu vaccine may not be effective against this particular virus. Individuals who have a greater risk of complications with the flu include children under the age of five, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic health conditions.

One of the most reliable laboratory tests available to diagnose the flu and other respiratory virus infections causing flu-like symptoms is the Respiratory Viral (RVPCR) panel, which is available through PAML, a community-based laboratory and one of the top medical reference laboratories in the country. "PAML’s Respiratory Viral (RVPCR) panel makes diagnosing the flu and respiratory infections much easier and faster than in the past,” said Carmen Wiley, PhD, scientific director for PAML. “The faster these high-risk patients can be diagnosed and treated, the greater their chances of minimizing complications and/or survival. This test is far superior to other tests as it provides not only greater sensitivity and specificity, as well as higher rates of co-infection detection. It also provides results within 24 hours of sample receipt at the laboratory so that healthcare providers can diagnose and treat faster than ever before.”

The RVPCR panel is superior to real-time PCR assays because it can detect and subtype influenza viruses in one step and simultaneously detect other viral pathogens. Manufactured by GenMark, the panel offers comprehensive detection of 14 respiratory virus types and subtypes to drive informed clinical decisions. The panel uses innovative eSensor® technology, which involves a unique biosensor technology for target detection, and its multiplexed design allows for efficient and simultaneous interrogation of a single specimen for multiple viruses.

Flu symptoms usually appear suddenly and can include cough and a fever, sore throat, muscle aches, joint pain, and exhaustion. People in high risk categories who develop these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Due to the lower effectiveness of this season’s influenza vaccine "It's more important than usual" that doctors treat certain patients with antiviral medications, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a January 9, 2015 national press conference. Patients who are diagnosed and treated with antiviral medications within 48 hours of the start of flu-like symptoms have the best outcomes.

Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks. The CDC recommends that unvaccinated people get vaccinated. Even though the current vaccination may not resist the new strain, it can still provide protection and possibly reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death.