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Respiratory PCR Panel £149.95
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Respiratory PCR Panel (COVID-19, Flu A/B and RSV) Test

What is a Respiratory PCR Panel?

A Respiratory PCR Panel is used to assess whether a specified selection of microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria are in the respiratory tract. The polymerase chain reaction or PCR is the method used to check for the presence of the microorganism. A PCR test works by detecting the genetic material of the microorganism. It is able to identify microorganisms that might be overlooked by other methods.

Respiratory PCR panels require a single respiratory sample only to perform tests for the presence of several disease-causing microorganisms. Test results are available quickly, and faster than by other methods. The number and type of microorganisms tested will depend on the panel selected.

What is a Respiratory PCR Panel test used for?

Respiratory PCR Panels can be used to identify the cause of a respiratory infection and direct its treatment. They are particularly useful for people who are at increased risk for severe infection, infection with complications or several infections at once, and for people who are seriously ill.

Not all people will be tested when they have a respiratory infection. This is often because they are otherwise healthy and the infection will clear up without specific treatment from the doctor. It may also not be necessary to test when the cause is obvious, such as when your signs and symptoms are the same as others in the family or in the community.

Why is a Respiratory PCR Panel test important?

During the course of breathing in and out, many microorganisms can enter and leave the respiratory tract. Only some of them will cause infections with signs and symptoms that should be treated. However, treatments can differ depending on the microorganism causing the infection.

From the signs and symptoms, a doctor may have some thoughts on the possible causes of the infection but can neither be certain about the cause nor differentiate between the signs and symptoms of some infections. In this case, it is necessary to identify the specific microorganism of concern.

Respiratory PCR Panel testing can be used to:

  • Help diagnose the cause of the respiratory infection
  • Helps direct treatment of the infection, enabling the correct treatment to be used and to be started with little delay. For example, the test result can guide the doctor to prescribe an antiviral medicine for a viral infection and not an antibiotic, which will not be effective
  • Reduce the risk of the infection becoming very severe or serious or requiring hospital admission, and
  • Possibly reduce transmission of a serious infection, if people who are infected take the recommended precautions to avoid spreading it to others.

What does this Respiratory PCR Panel test for?

This Respiratory PCR Panel tests for viruses that commonly cause respiratory infections, which can be serious and result in death:

  • COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 virus)
  • Influenza (Flu) types A and B
  • Respiratory Syncytal Virus (RSV)

These respiratory infections can affect people of all ages, with a severity that can range from mild to severe, and sometimes can be fatal. They tend to be seasonal, typically being most common and/or causing most deaths in the UK winter months. The viruses are easily transmitted from person-to-person, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes droplets containing viruses into the air and other people nearby breathe them in.

Who should have this Respiratory PCR Panel test?

Testing using this Respiratory PCR Panel is done to determine whether you have a respiratory infection due to COVID-19, Flu A, Flu B, and RSV.

You may require this test if you have signs and symptoms of a respiratory infection and are at increased risk of it becoming serious or life threatening, and of developing complications. Those most vulnerable include the infants, young children and older people; people with a chronic lung disease or another chronic health condition; or those with a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or a treatment for a condition.

Signs and symptoms of Flu A, Flu B, and RSV infections appear approximately 4 to 6 days after a person is infected with the virus; this is 5-6 days for COVID-19 but can be up to 14 days.

These viruses have similar signs and symptoms, and may include: congested or runny nose; coughing, sneezing; difficulty breathing, wheezing; sore throat; fever; fatigue, lack of energy; headache, body aches; and/or loss of appetite. Additionally, signs and symptoms of COVID-19 may include: loss of taste or smell; diarrhoea; skin rash, discolouration of fingers or toes; red or irritated eyes; loss of speech or mobility; confusion; and chest pain.

What to do for a Respiratory PCR Panel test?

A throat and nose swab is needed for Respiratory PCR Panel testing. You collect this swab using a test kit provided by The Online Clinic. Complete instructions are provided, which must be closely followed, or the test results may be inaccurate. Briefly, using the swab from the tube, touch five areas inside your mouth - left tonsil, left back wall, uvula, right back wall, and right tonsil. Then, using that same swab, insert the swab 2 to 3 cms into one nostril, turn it five times, and keep it there 5 to 10 seconds. Place the swab back in its tube, ensuring you have labelled the tube, package as instructed along with completed forms, and post. The Respiratory PCR Panel test results will be sent to your doctor at The Online Clinic who will explain to you what they mean.

What are normal Respiratory PCR Panel test results?

The doctor will interpret the test. Generally, if the test result is positive, it means that the specific virus has been detected and is the likely cause of your signs and symptoms. There may be more than one positive test result with this Respiratory PCR Panel, meaning you could be co-infected with two or more of the Panel's viruses. Similarly, if the test result is negative, it means that that specific virus has not been detected and another microorganism is the cause of your signs and symptoms.

However, there is a small chance that the result is positive when the virus is not present (false positive). This happens when the test detects the genetic material of dead virus, or when a genetically similar virus is present. Also, when the test is positive for more than one virus, not all of them may be causing your signs and symptoms. Conversely, the result may be negative when the virus is present (false negative), because there was insufficient genetic material present in the respiratory sample for detection, e.g., when the respiratory sample is not collected as instructed.

How to prevent a respiratory infection

It is difficult to prevent catching a respiratory infection when you have close contact or socially mix with other people. However, precautionary measures can be taken, such as avoiding close contact with people with signs and symptoms of an infection (or wearing a mask when caring for them), frequently washing your hands with soap and water, using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, and disinfecting surfaces frequently used by many people (e.g., door handles, kitchen tables, and toys).

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