Texas Flu Rapid Tests Raise Serious Concerns

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
By Paul Martin

December 18, 2013

The state health department has asked for specimens, but right now those specimens are being tested by an independent lab. Results are expected as early as Wednesday.

The above comments provide more detail on the “mystery disease” in Montgomery County in Texas, where 4 of 8 cases have died and two more are in critical condition. All cases are between 41-65 and had classical swine flu symptoms as described in a detail audio report by Dr Mark Escott, Deputy Health Authority, MCDH. However, they were tested with a rapid test that has a notoriously low sensitivity.

Media reports have called this a mystery disease because of the false negatives. It is likely that the independent lab is using a more sensitive assay (PCR for H1N1pdm09), and the “mystery” will be solved today.
Unfortunately, rapid tests are still widely used because of cost and speed. However, the false negatives can facilitate fatal outcomes.

Moreover, recent H1N1pdm09 sequences from Louisiana have H274Y, which would limit treatment with Tamiflu. Media reports have noted that patients were given prescription drugs, which may have included Tamiflu because they presented with classical flu symptoms.

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