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Attempt to detect flu before early symptoms appear

Jenny Decker RN's picture

College dorms are a perfect place for viruses and bacteria to multiply, divide, and spread, but a study funded by the Defenses Department aims to detect the flu even before early flu symptoms appear. A physician with the Defense Research Projects Agency Defense Department of Research, Colonel Geoffrey Ling came up with the idea.

As military personnel are often living in close quarters with each other, they are at higher risk for developing infections. The flu spreads quickly and so the idea of the study is to be able to detect a special “genomic fingerprint” of the body revving up its immune system to fight off the invader. Before symptoms occur, the body emits its fighting machine before early symptoms flare up.

Associated Press writes that the researchers at Duke worked with those at the University of Virginia and in London in an earlier study. A few small drops of a virus was placed into nasal passages of healthy volunteers. Researchers then collected blood every day, as well as saliva and nasal fluid samples. Even after only a few hours, some volunteers began to show evidence of being infected within the blood.

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When a student living in a dorm becomes sick, the infection quickly spreads to others. With the study, when one of the study participants become sick, then a team comes in to take blood samples and nasal and saliva samples to detect who will be getting sick. The purpose of this is to be able to separate and treat the students who have contracted the virus. This will stop the spread of the infectious agent and allows early intervention before early flu symptoms have a chance to develop.

The grant of $19.5 million from the Defense Department for Duke University will allow researchers to determine if their idea can be used in other areas where people are in close contact such as military barracks, college dorms, nursing homes, and intensive care units. The study may also help researchers to understand how the flu virus spreads in communities. This may help them to tease out certain aspects of the virus that can then be studied further to find out how to treat the illness before early flu symptoms develop and the virus spreads.

Symptoms of the flu include high fever, sore throat, coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and generalized body aches. If you suspect you have the flu, especially the H1N1 virus, call your physician immediately. Early treatment of early flu symptoms result in better outcomes. The hope of the study is to have the FDA approve an easy-to-use test kit. It reads a drop in blood much like doing a blood sugar. The results occur within minutes.

Written by Jenny Decker, RN
Exclusive to eMaxHealth