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South Korea approves combined COVID-19, flu test

South Korea approves combined COVID-19, flu test
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South Korea approved a combined COVID-19 and seasonal influenza test, allowing health officials to check for both illnesses using the same sample.

The dual sample will help prevent disruptions at medical facilities as the pandemic enters the flu season, The Associated Press reported.

While South Korea has managed to maintain a lower rate of cases than most countries, it has struggled to curb new spikes emerging in the nation's more densely-populated cities.

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The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Wednesday reported 118 new cases of the coronavirus, sending the cumulative national caseload to 26,925 and 474 fatalities.

The spike in cases is likely due to more of the Korean populace venturing outside in recent months to support the weakened economy caused by the pandemic.

"Despite efforts by health authorities to trace contacts and suppress transmissions, such efforts have been outpaced by the speed of viral spread," senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said during a COVID-19 briefing.

The new tests that target both COVID-19 and the flu are an evolved version of PCR tests used to detect samples of the virus taken from nostrils or throat.

Yoon said because influenza and COVID-19 symptoms are so similar, the dual test "would be convenient for patients and also reduce the burden of medical workers."

A similar test was launched by LabCorp in September and was issued for use by physicians and medical facilities, with application approval pending by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.