Lifewatch: Labs test for swine flu

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - This time of year marks the end of the regular flu season, but a lab in Iowa is expecting samples taken from patients at clinics and hospitals around the state to roll in by the dozens because of the swine flu.

Doctors across the country are the busiest they've been in a long time, but they say the work is worth every minute of their time.

"We're training new people right now, to make sure we have enough skilled technologists to perform this testing," said Dr. Lucy Desjardin with the UI Hygienic Lab.

Lab director Christopher Atchison said about 40 nasal swabs have come into the lab to be tested for the virus this week.

"We've sent out over 1,400 kits, a normal flu season we might only send out 2,000," said Atchison.

Desjardin said scientists are processing those specimens by hand in glass-shielded cabinets, while using a bio-robot that can handle larger loads a bit faster.

They are testing for Influenza Type A (H1N1).

If they find it's a non-human strain, it's sent to the Centers for Disease Control for the final step.

"They will determine then, whether or not it's the swine flu strain that's circulating," said Desjardin.

As with any health emergency, processing all the kits will cost more than what's normally budgeted for, so the lab will be keeping track of their extra expenses.