By Kelli Grant
Published: October 12, 2009, 6:07 PM
South Dakota's state health lab is still testing thousands of flu specimens a week and that means they're still working over time to get patient's results back quickly.
But the sick who think they have the flu often aren't finding out it's H1N1 until they're feeling back to normal. That is until now.
H1N1 at any Sanford Health Clinic, the specimen will end up at Sanford Laboratories. And that's where it will stay, making the time you wait for results much shorter.
Sanford Lab now has the equipment it needs to test for H1N1 in house.
“That will distinguish H1 and H3 Seasonal from the 2009 H1N1,” Sanford Lab Manager Jo Tichota-Lee said.
The testing that started last week means once a Sanford physician suspects H1N1 and tests you for the virus, it will take only a few hours instead of days to diagnose.
“If we get the specimen within the early hours of the morning like by 6 o'clock, we can get those specimens out in 5 and a half hours. But what we're saying is a 24-hour time period. So next day testing,” Tichota-Lee said.
Before Sanford Laboratories began using what's called a PCR test, they could only distinguish if the specimen was Influenza A or B. The A specimen was then sent to Pierre.
“We were sending specimens to them and they were really handling all the specimens in the state of South Dakota and you can imagine how overwhelmed one laboratory could get and basically one or two technologists performing that testing,” Tichota-Lee said.
Now Sanford Lab is testing 30 to 40 possible H1N1 specimens a day, but has the capability to test a hundred a day.
“It's like it's opened a whole new door for us and I just feel that we have so many opportunities to provide better tests for our health care providers,” said Tichota-Lee.
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