Fact check: Post claiming COVID-19 and flu viruses are same misrepresents at-home test kit




  • In Health
  • 2022-12-05 20:37:57Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

The claim: A COVID-19 and influenza dual-testing kit proves they are the same thing

With the flu season now underway, social media users are claiming, once again, that influenza and COVID-19 are the same virus.

An Instagram post (direct link, archive link) features a picture of an at-home kit that tests for both COVID-19 and the flu.

"So you can buy a test kit for COVID19 and Influenza A&B," reads the Nov. 27 post's text. "Conclusion: 1. COVID19 no real difference than the flu (sic) 2. That's why there mysteriously was NO FLU last year - all misdescribed as COVID19."

Similar iterations of the claim have been shared on Facebook and Twitter.

But the claim is false. The kit tests for COVID-19 and influenza separately. The two illnesses differ in prevention, long-term effects and transmissibility, and they are caused by different viruses.

When USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the post for comment they said they had seen the claim on their local news but provided no evidence proving it.

Flu and Covid are different, and antigen kit tests the viruses separately

Though COVID-19 and the flu are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, they are not the same. USA TODAY has previously debunked claims that the coronavirus does not exist and is only a flu strain. While COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2, a new coronavirus, the flu is caused by the influenza A and B viruses.

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The effects of the two viruses are also not the same for many people.

COVID-19 is much deadlier than the flu. While the World Health Organization estimates that about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths are caused by the flu every year, more than 6 million deaths were caused by COVID-19 in the first two years of the pandemic alone.

The coronavirus also leaves many people with long-term effects, such as shortness of breath and changes in smell and taste, and it can spread more easily, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both COVID-19 and flu vaccines must be administered to protect against the two viruses.

The claim that there were no flu cases last year is also false. According to the CDC, cases during the 2020-2021 season were low, but there was still flu activity. An estimated 9 million people caught the flu during the 2021-2022 season, the center reports.

The reasons for the reduction include high flu vaccination rates as well as COVID-19 mitigation measures, such as wearing face masks and hand washing.

The kit that appears in the claim is manufactured by Fanttest, a China-based biotech company, and it tests for each virus separately. The kit contains a device that tests for COVID-19 on one side and influenza on the other, as the company's website shows.

According to the instructions, users insert a nasal swab into both nostrils and create a solution from their nasal specimen that they add to a COVID-19 test and then an influenza test. Users have to wait 15 minutes before the results are shown.

Fanttest's dual-testing kit is certified by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia, not the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The kit is not available for purchase in the U.S.

In fact, no at-home flu tests have been approved by the FDA because of concerns about a lack of accuracy and varying sensitivity, according to Stat News.

USA TODAY previously debunked claims that having the flu can result in a positive COVID-19 test.

"No test for this virus can get approval if it gives false positives with other common respiratory viruses," Dr. Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, previously told USA TODAY.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a COVID-19 and influenza dual-testing kit proves they are the same thing. The kit tests for COVID-19 and influenza separately. The two illnesses differ in prevention, long-term effects and transmissibility and are caused by different viruses.

Our fact-check sources:

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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Antigen kit tests COVID-19 and influenza separately

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