As severe flu season continues, some Triangle doctors run low on flu tests

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — So far, 63 children have died from flu-related illness.

Four of those deaths were in North Carolina, and a total of 140 people have died in the state since the season began in October.

If that isn’t enough, doctors are now running short on flu tests.

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Dr. Kevin Campbell of Raleigh says this is the most severe flu season in more than a decade.

“It’s the most widespread since the CDC has been tracking these things over the last 13 years,” Campbell said. “People are dying. It’s a big deal.”

Several doctors in the Triangle say they’ve been affected by a shortage of flu test kits.

“We really do like to confirm it with the flu test if we can and there are so many folks that have had to get these swabs that it’s just hard to keep up with the demand,” Dr. Campbell said.

Dr. Christian Nechyba at Carolina Kids Pediatrics says they haven’t run out of flu tests yet, but they have cut it close. He says so far this season they’ve ordered about twice as many tests as they did last year.

“We have gone through them more quickly, but we’ve been able to scramble and find manufacturers,” said Nechyba. “So, we’ve been able to stay in stock. It has been more of a challenge — we’ve had to explore several suppliers to meet our needs.”

But are these tests necessary for doctors to diagnose a patient with the flu? Dr. Nechyba says no.

He also says these tests are not always accurate.

“They can be useful in questionable situations, but it’s important to remember that flu tests don’t have a 100 percent sensitivity, which means you can have the flu and have a negative test,” Nechyba said.

So, if your doctor is out of the flu test, both doctors say not to worry.

“The majority of treatment decisions do not rely on the results of a flu test,” said Dr. Nechyba. “We can diagnose and treat the flu pretty effectively with or without a test.”

Nechyba says last month they ordered between 300 and 400 flu test kits.

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