We’re In the 2022 Flu Season — So Why Can’t We Buy Rapid Antigen Tests for Influenza?

A lot of Aussies are currently starring in the TV program Cold, COVID, or Flu. Yes, this terrifying and awful series is back for another season. Moreover, it’s fast becoming a classic. In each episode, you wake up with your nose full of mucus, your noggin full of fog, and you must determine how quickly your illness would murder an elderly nun.

But do you know what would make this series a tad easier to stomach? If we everyday folks could use RAT tests to discover if we’ve got the flu. Because while using COVID RATs is both extremely helpful and convenient, having some extra info about what’s going on in our bods wouldn’t hurt anyone. For instance, if you don’t have COVID but are hit with the flu, it’s probably a smart move to keep your distance from your immunocompromised pals. HealthPartners has also stated that you can get COVID and the flu at the same time.

So does such a flu-focused RAT actually exist? Yes, it in fact does. Take for instance, Roche Diagnostics’ SARS-CoV-2 & Flu A/B Rapid Antigen Test​. This bad boy is able to detect influenza virus A, influenza virus B, and SARS-CoV-2. However, you can’t currently buy this sort of kit from a pharmacy or use one in the comfort of your own living room. 

A virologist from the University of Queensland named Kirsty Short believes that there’s a reason why home-based flu RATs aren’t available yet. And it’s because there just hasn’t been an outcry for them. She told the ABC, “There hasn’t been the demand, I mean, rapid antigen testing has been around as a technology for other pathogens.” Short then goes on to explain that HIV RATs have been used by a heap of different individuals.

But there’s another wrinkle in this story. It’s that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is justifiably gungho about making sure that this technology is safe for us consumers to use. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the TGA has a guide for what data they want tech companies to provide them before registering a flu-focused RAT kit. These guidelines were only published earlier in 2022.

Because of these factors, such kits practically won’t be available here until early 2023. Which is a shame, because as previously noted, it is currently the flu season. Having folks be able to detect this virus at home early might take some much-needed pressure off of our healthcare system.

It’s worth noting though that the TGA has approved a whack of tests that can catch both COVID and the flu. Eight of them can be used by pathology laboratories, while two can be used by point-of-care health professionals. So, if you really need a test that can check for both of these viruses, have a Google around, and you might find somewhere close that offers one.

If you want to make sure that you’re fortifying your flesh chassis and your community from getting smacked with the flu, then get a flu vaccine. Here’s a handy-dandy guide that’ll tell you whether or not it’s free in your state or territory.

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