UI Hygienic Labs test for H1N1 flu - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UI Hygienic Labs test for H1N1 flu

CORALVILLE (KWWL) - At least five people are in U.S. hospitals with H1N1 flu, and 60 cases are confirmed in multiple states. Americans are still going into mexico, where 150 have died.

Now, President Obama is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to fight it.

State hygienic labs like the one at the University of Iowa are doing a lot more work than usual, as this marks the end of the regular flu season. They're expecting samples taken from patients at clinics and hospitals around the state, to roll in by the dozens.

"We really predict there will be a great influx of testing," said Dr. Lucy Desjardin. She's preparing for samples from across the state to end up here in the coming days.

"We're training new people right now, to make sure we have enough skilled technologists to perform this testing."

Lab director Christopher Atchison says about 40 nasal swab kits have come back and been tested for the virus this week. "We've sent out over 1,400 kits. In a normal flu season, we might only send out 2,000."

That's just since Monday, and he expects the returning number of samples to ramp up quickly, along with public concern.

"If [people] go their health care clinic or hospital, the proper specimen-collection kit will be there."

Desjardin says scientists are processing those specimens by hand in glass-shielded cabinets, while using a "bio-robot" that can handle larger loads a bit faster. They're testing for influenza type-A.

If they find it's a non-human strain, it's sent to the Centers for Disease Control for the final step. "They will determine then, whether or not it's the swine flu strain that's circulating," Desjardin told us. However, she hopes she'll have the equipment in-house for that procedure, by the end of this week.

As with any health emergency, Atchison says processing all those kits will cost more than what's normally budgeted for, so they'll be keeping track of their extra expenses.

St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids sent in a specimen from a patient with flu symptoms, which came back negative. Scientists are working on a vaccine, but it may be months before it will be ready for the public.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith 

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