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COVID-19 Or The Flu? A Sensor In The Works Could Tell The Difference. Why It Matters.

Drive-thru screening at a CommUnityCare Clinic in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT
Drive-thru screening at a CommUnityCare Clinic in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic.

From Texas Standard:

Experts have long predicted that a so-called “second wave” of the coronavirus could hit in the fall. That is especially concerning because, if that happens, it would coincide with the regular flu season.

COVID-19 and what we know simply as “the flu” are both respiratory diseases that present with many of the same symptoms. But they are different. For one thing, COVID-19 is more deadly. And knowing the difference quickly could change a treatment plan.

University of Texas at Austin electrical and computer engineering postdoctoral fellow Dimitry Kireev is part of a team working on a sensor to test for both illnesses at the same time.

“Imagine if you got symptoms and you don't know – is it flu or is it COVID? Do you self-isolate yourself for 14 days? Do you go to work? What do you do?” Kireev said.

Kireev and his sponsor, UT-Austin Engineering Professor Deji Akinwande, are working with UT-Austin Molecular Biosciences Professor Andy Ellington on the project. The team is hopeful its sensor could relieve some of the pressure on current testing equipment as well as medical personnel. The plan is to have the sensors available for consumer purchase at pharmacies such as Walgreens.

“You can have it at home, you develop the symptoms, and just simply do a test,” Kireev said.

Kireev and his team are working to try to get the test ready for market by the fall or winter.

"It is tough to predict when exactly it will be ready, but we are optimistic that it should be done by the end of the year,” Kireev said.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.