ORANGE Health Service has been chosen as one of 23 hospitals in the state to receive faster flu tests.
The advanced technology cuts the waiting time on diagnosis for influenza types A and B from four days to a little as one hour.
Faster diagnosis could prove particularly crucial given antivirals are most effective when started less than two days from onset, while patients with a negative diagnosis could avoid unnecessary treatment and be discharged earlier, freeing hospital beds.
It is also hoped the test could help clinicians take quicker steps to prevent or control localised outbreaks, while preserving antibiotics under increasing threat from resistance.
NSW Health Pathology manager for Orange Ben Alchin said the rapid testing could be a game-changer for fighting the virus.
“For high risk patients, such as those with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other long-term conditions, faster diagnosis and treatment could reduce time spent in hospital or even prove life-saving,” he said.
However, Mr Alchin said people should stay at home or visit a GP for flu symptoms at first and only go to hospital in emergency or critical cases as the test is of greatest value to hospital patients at high risk of serious complications.
It is also not too late to get the seasonal flu vaccine, with an early flu season under way.
The peak flu season is usually August to September, but NSW Health expects the peak is more likely to hit this month.
Reports of Influenza in NSW are up 50 per cent on the same time last year, with Influenza A (H3N2) the most common type.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this is the largest rapid Influenza testing program in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Influenza comes at a high cost to our communities, hospitals and economy, especially during seasonal outbreaks,” she said.
“For the most vulnerable members of our community, this highly infectious virus can cause serious complications and even death.
“Having real-time diagnostic testing in our public hospitals will help save time, resources and lives.”
Dubbo will be the only other central west hospital to have the testing rolled out.