A number of posts on Facebook and Instagram claim that RT-PCR tests are failing to distinguish between Covid and Flu virus. The posts further claim that CDC has taken cognizance of the issue and has instructed the testing labs accordingly. We fact-checked and found that the claim is mostly false.
The CDC has asked the FDA to withdraw its emergency use authorization for the Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel to test for COVID-19. They found that the test, which has been used to detect COVID-19 since February of 2020, is unable to differentiate between different types of coronaviruses, including telling whether someone has COVID or influenza,” reads a Facebook post.
Did CDC announce that they will withdraw the RT PCR test?
Yes. They did.
On July 21, 2021, CDC issued a notification that from December 31 onwards CDC will withdraw the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the RT PCR tests (popularly known as CDC 2019-nCoV RT-PCR in the US)
Why did CDC decide to revoke Emergency Use Authorization for RT PCR tests?
In the notification issued, CDC clearly mentioned the reason for withdrawing the EUA for RT PCR tests. The notification says that CDC was withdrawing the EUA request because, rather than testing only for the COVID virus, it wants labs to test people for multiple viruses simultaneously, using what is known as “a multiplexed method.”
It needs to be noted that in the US December onwards cases of influenza rise with peak touching between December to February.
Experts have agreed to CDC’s stance of testing multiple viruses through one test rather than individually testing for all. Notably, RT PCR tests only for Covid-19.
Thereby, despite the fact that CDC informed laboratories about withdrawal of EUA for RT PCR tests, the reasons were were not as claimed in the Facebook posts.
Can RT PCR tests differentiate between coronavirus and flu virus?
Yes. They can. Multiple experts have confirmed the same.
It will be wrong to say that RT PCR tests cannot differentiate between flu and Covid-19 virus. RT PCR tests only measure the presence of the Covid virus. Also, there is no proof that so far flu cases have been added to Covid case numbers.
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