Combating 3 Common Viral Respiratory Infections
Date: May 14,2024

A respiratory tract infection is an infection of the lungs, airways, sinuses, or throat. Although respiratory infections are present throughout the year, there's a notable surge during the fall and winter months, commonly known as the cold and flu season, as individuals tend to spend more time indoors. The highly contagious respiratory infections such as influenza (flu), COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) typically circulate in the United States, and other geographical regions, during the fall through early spring each year, causing epidemics of respiratory illness.  

All three of the extremely contagious respiratory illnesses are caused by viruses: flu by influenza virus, COVID-19 by SARS-CoV-2 virus, and RSV by respiratory syncytial virus.  A person may have infections from several viruses at the same time. Symptoms associated with flu, RSV and COVID-19 can overlap and commonly include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Due to the similarity in symptoms, distinguishing between illnesses caused by respiratory viruses can be challenging and testing may be required to confirm the infection.  

What is Influenza?

Certain individuals, including those aged 65 years and older, young children, and individuals with specific health conditions, are at an increased risk of experiencing severe complications from the flu. It causes illnesses that range in severity and sometimes lead to hospitalization and death. There are two types of influenza viruses that routinely spread and cause substantial disease in humans, influenza A and influenza B. These viruses are responsible for seasonal flu and epidemics each year.  

Flu A viruses are also found in many different animals, including ducks, chickens, pigs, horses, whales, and seals, and can be transmitted from animals to humans. Infection with any one of the flu viruses can result in mild respiratory symptoms which are usually confined to the upper respiratory tract (which involve the nose, sinuses, pharynx, and larynx) and typically display signs such as fever, sore throat, rhinitis, cough, runny or stuffy nose, lethargy, and headache. More severe influenza virus infections are usually associated with lower respiratory tract infections (including the trachea and lungs) leading to viral or bacterial-induced pneumonia, which can be fatal, especially in the elderly.  

For proper management of these contagious viruses, quick detection and confirmation is needed. With the rapid detection of influenza A and B, as well as COVID-19, the Healgen® COVID-19/Flu A&B Ag Combo Rapid Test Cassette (Swab) and the Healgen® Influenza Antigen Rapid Test kits are valuable tools for healthcare facilities. (Some products are available for sale exclusively outside the US. Please contact us for more information.) 


What is COVID-19? 

COVID-19 (corona virus disease 2019) is a highly contagious and infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV-2 transmits from person to person through several routes, mainly via respiratory droplets or aerosols, posing challenges for containment.  

The flu and COVID-19 exhibit very similar symptoms, making differentiation between these two illnesses challenging. Possible COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. However, some individuals may become severely ill, need medical care or die, regardless of age. Older adults and those with underlying health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, or cancer are at higher risk of developing severe illness, and proper diagnosis is vital for treatment. The Healgen® Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Test is a lateral flow immunochromatographic assay intended for the rapid, qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein antigens directly in anterior nasal swabs specimens from individuals with signs and symptoms of upper respiratory infection within the first six (6) days of symptom onset.  



What is RSV? 

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that infects the nose, throat, lungs, and breathing passages, typically causing mild, cold-like symptoms. Most RSV infections resolve without intervention within a week or two. However, RSV can cause severe illness in some people. When infants and young children get infected for the first time, a serious lung infection called bronchiolitis can occur and may sometimes be deadly. Apart from affecting children, RSV is increasingly being recognized as an important pathogen for older adults. An increased number of older people may need hospital care, especially aged 65 years old or older. In very frail older adults, RSV can even lead to more deaths, almost as many as are seen with the flu.  

People infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected, and they are typically contagious for 3-8 days and can start spreading the virus a day or two before they show any symptoms. Symptoms of RSV infection usually include a runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. The Rapid Check™ RSV Antigen Test and the Healgen® RSV Antigen Rapid Test serve as a quick and accurate screening tests to aid in the diagnosis of RSV respiratory infections. 

In June 2023, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that adults aged ≥60 years receive a single dose of RSV vaccine.  This is the first time a vaccine for prevention of RSV-associated respiratory disease has been recommended. In September 2023, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC also recommended vaccination for pregnant persons as a one-time dose at 32–36 weeks’ gestation using seasonal administration (i.e., September–January in most of the continental United States) for prevention of RSV-associated lower respiratory tract infection among infants aged <6 months.  


How Can Tests Prevent Respiratory Infections? 

Globally, co-circulation of influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and RSV has led to an increased burden on healthcare infrastructure and increased risk for severe illness for high-risk populations. Measures taken to reduce the spread of these contagious viruses critically depend on the timely and accurate identification of individuals suspected of infection. Having highly accurate rapid tests available can aid in early diagnosis by detecting proteins called antigens from influenza, SARS-CoV-2, and RSV. Rapid antigen tests are simpler and faster than a molecular test and can help in controlling the spread of these infections and ensuring effective patient management. At Healgen, we are committed to producing testing kits that get fast and accurate results, leading to more effective treatment.  

Our respiratory line provides quick and accurate results for the detection of these viruses and other infections. Our antigen tests are designed to be user-friendly, allowing for efficient screening in various healthcare settings. Healgen understands the importance of early detection and management of respiratory infections, and we prioritize ongoing research and development. Join our mission to combat the spread of contagious viruses worldwide. We have many products available globally, so contact our team for information on tests available in your country.