Influenza, known as the flu , is a respiratory infection caused by a virus . The flu virus usually spreads from person to person through coughing or sneezing. You can also get the flu by touching a surface that has the flu virus on it, and then touching your own nose or eyes.
The flu is most common during certain times of the year, known as flu season. In the United States, flu season can begin as early as October and end as late as May. During each flu season, millions of Americans get the flu. Most people who get the flu will feel sick with muscle aches, fever , and other uncomfortable symptoms, but will recover within a week or so. For others, the flu can cause very serious illness, and even death.
A flu test can help your health care provider figure out if you have the flu, so you can get treated earlier. Early treatment may help lessen the symptoms of the flu. There are a few different types of flu tests. The most common is called the rapid influenza antigen test, or rapid influenza diagnostic test. This type of test can provide results in less than half an hour, but is not as accurate as some other types of flu tests. More sensitive tests may require your health care provider to send samples to a specialized lab.
Other names: rapid flu test, influenza antigen test, rapid influenza diagnostic test, RIDT, Flu PCR