Flu Surveillance Testing

Amarillo, TX--The official start to the flu season is Sunday, October 4 according to the CDC. For state health officials, this date also kicks off a five-month initiative to track the disease.

It is known as flu surveillance testing.

And at least ten local health providers will take part in this year's volunteer program.

"So, they swab their patients noses. They take a culture of that. They send it to the state laboratory then on to the CDC in Atlanta to see what kinds of flu strains we have circulating in our community," said Matt Richardson, Director Amarillo Public Health Department.

They will also search for any changes in the viruses. Richardson says the hope is to find a trend early on and beat the illness before it attacks more people. But he notes that there are early indicators of another round of the flu later this season.

"We don't know when it will be," he explains. "But essentially, we think, there will be two flu seasons this year, instead of just the seasonal experience we have every year."

The surveillance program is set to begin next week and last through March. The results of their findings will be made available periodically through the CDC.

Doctors participating in the program will continue to send H1N1 cultures to Austin if the patient meets the state criteria.