CDC: Nursing Homes Should Test Residents for Flu, Other Respiratory Illnesses in Addition to COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) updated its COVID-19 testing guidelines for nursing homes, advising operators to check for other respiratory aliments — including the more familiar flu — on top of the novel coronavirus.

“Clinicians are encouraged to consider testing symptomatic residents for other causes of respiratory illness, for example influenza, in addition to testing for SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC indicated, using the formal name for the novel coronavirus, in the most recent update to its recommendations for nursing home residents and staff, issued Saturday.

Also new in the CDC’s guidelines: an admonition to not test residents more than once within a 24-hour period, as well as a terminology change from “baseline” to “initial” testing when referring to the one-time universal test for all residents required as part of the federal government’s reopening plan. Those terms remain interchangeable, however.

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“Testing practices should aim for rapid turnaround times (e.g., less than 48 hours) in order to facilitate effective interventions. Testing the same individual more than once in a 24-hour period is not recommended,” the CDC recommended. “Antibody (serologic) test results should generally not be used as the sole basis to diagnose an active SARS-CoV-2 infection and should not be used to inform IPC [infection prevention and control] action.”

The CDC additionally reorganized its suggestions for testing into three broad groups: testing for health care workers, testing of residents, and testing in response to an outbreak.

The imperative to test all nursing home residents has formed he backbone of the federal government’s plan to gradually reopen facilities to visitors other than essential health care personnel; after that initial test, weekly testing of all personnel is recommended.

The ultimate reopening decision remains up to states, as well as the exact frequency of testing. New York, for instance, had required nursing homes to test all workers twice per week up until last week, when it dropped that frequency to weekly in most areas of the state after a successful first round.

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