Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis with point-of-care-testing in outpatients presenting to general practitioners with influenza-like illness during winter of 2023
Introduction: Seasonal respiratory illnesses are an important cause of outpatient visits, hospital admission and death. In the past two years, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and precautionary measures introduced during the COVID-19 emergency have led to a substantial decrease in the circulation of respiratory viruses. As these measures are being left behind, the number of influenza-like-illnesses (ILIs) is rising. Different germs are responsible for very similar clinical presentations. Therefore, pathogen identification is pivotal for diagnostical assessment, appropriate therapy prescription, epidemiological surveillance and possible actions concerning public health (i.e.. quarantine).
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study involving a cohort of patients of all ages presenting with ILI and symptom onset ≤7 days evaluated and tested with point-of-care-testing (POCT) methods by a network of 24 General Practitioners in the Rome metropolitan area between January 23rd and February 23rd 2023.
Results: Once the etiology of the infection was determined through point-of-care-testing, we were able to estimate viral circulation in Rome metropolitan area during week 04/2023 and 05/2023. Patients with Influenza were younger and more often reported complained of having a cough, while patients with COVID-19 were older and consistently reported malaise/fatigue and dysgeusia.
Conclusion: The use of POCT methods is a useful tool to determine the etiology of ILIs, providing key information to improve patient care, epidemiological surveillance networks and outpatient clinical research. Patients with Influenza seems to be younger and to report more frequently cough, while patients with COVID-19 seems to be older to report more frequently malaise/fatigue and dysgeusia.
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