MMS Flu Advisory: DPH to Stop Routine Testing for H1N1 Virus

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As swine-origin influenza A H1N1 infections become increasingly widespread, laboratory confirmation of the novel H1N1 influenza is becoming less critical to decisions regarding antiviral treatment, chemoprophylaxis and disease control measures.

In addition, as the number of seasonal influenza A infections have declined, the identification of influenza A by rapid tests and other methods has become more useful as an indicator of the presence of the novel H1N1 influenza. Antiviral treatment must normally be initiated prior to the results of confirmatory laboratory testing and therefore will depend on the results of rapid tests and clinical judgment.

As such, effective June 12, the Hinton State Laboratory Institute (HSLI) will no longer perform diagnostic testing for the novel H1N1 influenza except in rare circumstances. Testing will be performed ONLY where confirmatory results will significantly impact clinical management of a patient, or where there is a clear public health benefit. Such specimens should be submitted only after the approval of a state Department of Public Health (MDPH) epidemiologist.

Specimens from influenza sentinel sites will continue to be tested at HSLI. This will provide a representative sample for disease surveillance, and will allow for identification of significant mutations in the viral genetic structure over time.

Testing for swine-origin influenza A H1N1 is now available through commercial and clinical laboratories. CDC and MDPH recommend that the individuals who are either hospitalized with severe respiratory illness OR who are at high risk for complications from influenza be treated for influenza empirically, as soon as possible after symptom onset.

DPH's latest recommendations pertaining to H1N1 are on the MDPH website at www.mass.gov/dph/swineflu. Information from CDC can be found at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.  

Clinicians and laboratories can contact an MDPH epidemiologist at 617-983-6800 (available 24/7) with any questions regarding test, treatment, or control measures.

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