Lab preparations for flu season

At the peak of flu season, the demands for testing can be quite extensive. For this very reason, the lab team spends a great deal of time preparing for the rise in activity and equipment needs. Carey Jacquay, MT(ASCP) H, clinical laboratory manager, Parkview Regional Medical Center, explains what goes on behind the scenes to make sure Parkview is ready.

What can you share about the preparation process?

We begin preparing for flu season, which typically kicks off in August, in the early summer months. We look at anticipated volumes and begin ordering test supplies. We also make sure all staff are trained to do the testing.

What is the influenza testing process like from a lab prospective?

Contrary to belief, we don’t actually culture for flu, since it is a virus. We detect the DNA of the flu virus by molecular methods. We have two different instruments on which we can run flu testing. One is a stat test and the other is a longer method (molecular BioFire). We receive patient nasopharyngeal swabs in the lab and we place the swabs into testing wells. We then extract the virus and amplify the genetic material so the machine can detect and identify the pathogen. The stat testing takes about 20 minutes to complete and the molecular BioFire takes about 90 minutes.

The community hospitals and the PPG offices have the stat testing instruments.  The BioFire instruments are only in the microbiology department at Parkview Regional Medical Center’s lab. PRMC also has the stat testing instrument as well.

How does your team adapt when instances are heightened, like we saw last year? 

The PRMC lab helps coordinate kit inventories for the system. Last year, there was a nationwide shortage of kits, so the PRMC lab helped make sure kits were available to all the testing sites.  Patient samples are lined up in the order they are received, so as soon as one comes off the machine, another goes on. This happens 24/7.


Flu testing is taken very seriously at Parkview, and we spend a lot of time preparing to make sure we are ready to meet the demands. That being said, the best advice we can give is for everyone to get their flu shot!


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