MURRAY — Flu activity has reached epidemic levels and is now in 43 states throughout the country.
Nine people have already died from the flu in Salt Lake County this winter. With the flu and other viruses out in full swing, it is important for medical professionals to be able to detect and quickly treat their patients.
Doctors at Intermountain Medical Center are hoping the device created by BioFire Diagnostics in Salt Lake City will help cut back on the spread of the flu this year.
The small device called FilmArray can identify viruses or bacteria in about an hour instead of roughly six hours. Once a sample is taken from a patient's nose or mouth, it's mixed with various chemicals in the respiratory panel that then identify what's making that person sick.
"With this type of testing, they get results and info much quicker," said Dr. Jeremy Wallentine, director of the Intermountain Medical Central Lab. "They have that information and can make more appropriate decisions in terms of, 'Do I use antibiotics?'"
This dramatic drop in result time has allowed doctors to more effectively treat the ailments a person has and help prevent serious complications from the virus.
"In some instances, we can identify two or more viruses or bacteria," Wallentine said. "It is important and has been shown to correlate with more severe illness."
Intermountain Healthcare is home to 16 machines throughout its hospitals. And through flu season, doctors and hospital employees are regularly testing for 20 pathogens.
"We've certainly seen an increase in the volume of our work, starting late November into December, and it's certainly continuing to ramp up," Wallentine said. "This has been a severe flu season."