Combination COVID and flu test does not prove they are the same virus

CLAIM: An at-home rapid test that can detect both the coronavirus and influenza A and B is proof that COVID-19 and flu are the same disease.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The flu and the coronavirus are distinct viruses, and the product in the photo tests separately for each. Such tests detect specific proteins that differ between the viruses, allowing them to discern between COVID-19 and flu infections, medical experts confirmed to The Associated Press.

THE FACTS: U.S. COVID-19 cases have again spiked in tandem with influenza, as a wave of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, cases this year has threatened a winter “tripledemic.” But in recent days, some social media users have pointed to a photo of an at-home test kit that can detect influenza A and B and COVID-19, incorrectly suggesting it shows that the coronavirus pandemic is just another wave of seasonal flu.

A post circulating on Instagram shows a box labeled “COVID-19/Influenza A&B Antigen Test Kit,” with a teal-colored illustration of a coronavirus on the side. Text above the image reads, “Covid or flu.. ahhh.. doesn’t matter.”

“The flu’s back y’all after disappearing for over 2 years,” one user captioned the image. “It’s always been the flu…”

But the kit in the photo tests for each virus separately, and medical experts confirmed they are distinct viruses that are detected differently.

“While flu and Covid may feel similar, the viruses that cause these diseases are as different as night and day,” said Dr. Benjamin Neuman, chief virologist at Texas A&M’s Global Health Research Complex.

Instructions for the test in the Instagram post available online, as well as photos of the product, show it comes with a cartridge that contains two “specimen wells,” one to check for COVID-19 and the other to check for influenza. Users are instructed to swab their nostrils, insert the swab into a test liquid, then put drops of the liquid into each well. Different lines will show up on the test strip in each well depending on what the user tests positive for.

The test, sold under the name Fanttest, has been approved by the agency that regulates medical therapies for use in Australia, but it is not available in the U.S.

Thomas Denny, a professor of medicine and chief operating officer of Duke University’s Human Vaccine Institute, said rapid antigen tests are developed by using a “recombinant protein” that mimics a specific virus.

Before such tests are authorized for use, they are measured for sensitivity and specificity, Denny said. Specificity refers to ensuring the tests provide positive results for the given virus, and not for samples from uninfected people or those infected with a different virus.

It’s common for antigen tests to check for multiple things simultaneously, Neuman said in an email. The proteins usually targeted by COVID-19 and flu tests, respectively, “have nothing in common,” making a two-in-one antigen test possible.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any influenza tests for home-only use. In May, the agency authorized a triple testing kit for COVID-19, influenza A and B and RSV, but those results must still be processed at a lab.

It is possible to be infected with both COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously.


Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed this report.


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at the AP.