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WASHINGTON - Current quick tests for flu miss many cases of the new pandemic H1N1 strain, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. The accuracy of the tests ranged from just 40 percent to 69 percent in detecting swine flu, the CDC team reported. The findings confirm the CDC's warnings that instant tests performed on the spot in doctor's offices and clinics are not highly worthwhile for diagnosing H1N1 infections.
The QuickVue test detected 69 percent of the H1N1 cases, the Directigen test found 49 percent and BinaxNow caught just 40 percent. None can distinguish among the different types of flu — they just tell a patient and a doctor if one of the flu viruses is there.
In its latest update, the World Health Organization last week reported 162,230 confirmed cases of the pandemic H1N1 virus and 1,154 deaths, but the CDC says more than a million people in the United States alone have been infected. Most public health officials have given up on trying to get precise counts of how many people are infected. The CDC's study gives one reason why: Even if patients go to the doctor to be tested, and not all do, the instant test does not do a good job of detecting swine flu.