Reasons and Procedure For Conducting a Swine Flu Swab Test

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 16, 2012

A swab test for swine flu is done when the medical care giver, going by the symptoms of a patient, suspects a case of swine flu.

The samples are usually collected either in a hospital, a health clinic or a doctor’s office. Swabs are taken from the throat and nose of a suspected patient and sent to the laboratory for testing.

A dry swab is inserted into one nostril and then back into the nasopharynx (upper throat). This is left in place for some seconds and then gently rotated, and removed. The procedure is repeated with the other nostril with a different swab. The swabs are then placed into a vial or tube containing a special liquid viral transport medium. This is placed in a sealed plastic zippered bag and transported by courier to the health lab, where it is kept in a refrigerator until it can be tested.

Transport and storage details: Care must be taken while transporting and storing the sample. It should be transported within 48 hours and stored at 4 degrees C. If for some reasons, it is not possible to transport the sample within 48 hours, care should be taken to store it at -70 degrees C. It should be not be stored in a standard refrigerator or freezer. In the lab, the sample can be stored for a week at 4 degrees C, but in case of delay in testing, it should then be frozen at -20 degrees C.

The samples should never be stored or transported in solid carbon dioxide (dry ice), since this can make the influenza viruses inactive, especially if the sealing is not perfect.


The swine flu swab test is also called the real-time polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test. The PCR technology is used for cloning DNA or diagnosing genetic diseases. In this case, it uses genetic material to identify the influenza viruses through cooling and heating cycles, which last approximately 90 minutes. The PCR method enables it to determine whether the virus belongs to Influenza A and further if the source of the virus is human or non-human. Testing may take about 12 hours.


Doctors usually advise the test if an epidemic of swine flu is around. The test may also be advised if the patient displays flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, body ache, runny nose, sore throat and cough accompanied by extreme fatigue or diarrhea and vomiting.

Treatment includes anti-flu medicines like Relenza or Tamiflu.

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