More vulnerable South Australians will now be able to test for 12 different viruses, such as influenza, alongside their COVID-19 tests.
SA Pathology has doubled its multi-virus testing from 500 to 1,000 a day to support doctors to give early diagnosis and treatment to at-risk patients.
Tests are available at drive-through testing clinics and at private pathologies with a GP referral, which can also be obtained via telehealth.
Health Minister Chris Picton said multi-virus testing has been available since the start of the pandemic, but spiking flu cases have prompted health authorities to provide more testing.
“This means that people would be able to find out if they’ve got any of one of these 12 different viruses and get the appropriate treatment that they need, particularly if they are an older person or when you’ve got chronic health conditions,” he said.
“That’s why we’re keen to step up our capability in our laboratories while also making sure we keep a high level of COVID testing and a short turnaround time for those tests as well.”
Patients should contact their referring GP for their multi-virus test results, which take up to 24 hours to process.
Multi-virus tests can be bulk-billed while COVID-19 testing remains free and results may take 10 to 12 hours.
The viruses to be tested include COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus, bordetella pertussis, influenza A+B, human metapneumovirus, mycoplasma pneumoniae, rhinovirus and parainfluenza 1, 2 and 3.
Mr Picton said not everyone who takes a COVID-19 test will be offered a multi-virus test.
“If we were to change COVID-19 testing to all include influenza as well, then the clear advice is that would hamper our ability to test for a significant number of COVID-19 tests,” he said.
“And that would impact our ability if we have significant further waves or new variants to step up to previous level of COVID-19 testing simply because we won’t have the laboratory capacity to be able to do both through SA Pathology.
“A key part of this is making sure we continue our COVID testing capability and make sure those tests are as quick and available as possible.”
Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said people in a high-risk group will benefit most from early anti-viral treatments.
“If you have symptoms and are in a high-risk group that will benefit from flu treatments, you should speak to your GP about a combined COVID-19 and flu test,” she said.
“This will ensure that you can access COVID-19 or flu treatments quickly.”