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UC Davis test can detect both COVID-19 and the flu in 20 minutes

Technology being used throughout UC Davis emergency department and select clinics

DAVIS, Calif. — The University of California - Davis said it has a test that could be a game-changer with its ability to detect both COVID-19 and the flu in 20 minutes.

Nam Tran is a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine, who focuses on rapid testing.

“I’m excited because as we evolve through this pandemic, speed has been key,” Tran said. “We’ve seen so many situations where results came back over two, three days and even 12 days [alter]. And that is not helpful to control this pandemic.

He said it can be done anywhere.

“So rather than sending the sample over to the lab, waiting hours or perhaps even days to get results, it is lab-grade quality at the bedside and quick too,” Tran said.

Tran explained why knowing the status of both COVID and the flu is so important.

“Flu season has started and we need to be able to detect the flu,” Tran said. “People who have the flu could look like someone who has COVID and someone who has COVID could look like they have the flu. Or they have both.”

The test is being administered right now across UC Davis’ emergency department and select clinics.

“In the emergency room settings, knowing if someone is COVID positive or not, this allows our physicians to make decisions on how to control, prevent other infections and so forth, as well as their own protection,” Tran explained.

Still, most people just walking into a clinic will not have access to the new test. Hannah Aalborg, Health Program Coordinator for Sacramento County explained the current state of testing in Sacramento.

“The turnaround time, depending on which location you’re seen at, is really anywhere between 24 and 72 hours that you receive your result,” Aalborg said.

She admitted the supply chain, though, hasn’t always been reliable.

“Right now the reliability of the supply chain, obviously, has fluctuated over the course of this pandemic,” Aalborg said. “But at the moment we’re not experiencing any shortages. But that can always change which is what’s happened in the past.”

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