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FDA authorizes at-home test for COVID, flu and RSV

Do you have COVID-19 or could it be the flu? The FDA has authorized a new at-home test that may make it easier to answer that question.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the greenlight to the first non-prescription COVID-19 test that also detects the flu and RSV. 

The test involves taking a nasal swab sample at home and then sending it to Labcorp for testing. Results are then delivered through an online portal, with follow-up from a health care provider if it's a positive or invalid test result, the FDA explained in its announcement

The test can detect multiple respiratory viruses at the same time, including influenza A and B, commonly known as the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, along with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

RSV is a common virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the CDC. While most people recover in a week or two, it can be serious, especially for infants and older adults, the agency explains on its website. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in kids younger than one.

Labcorp's test kit can be purchased online or in a store without a prescription and is designed for people 2 years and older. 

“While the FDA has now authorized many COVID-19 tests without a prescription, this is the first test authorized for flu and RSV, along with COVID-19, where an individual can self-identify their need for a test, order it, collect their sample and send it to the lab for testing, without consulting a health care professional,” Jeff Shuren, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement. 

The test is considerably more expensive than a traditional COVID-19 test. A Labcorp spokesperson told NBC News the at-home test kit will cost $169. 

The emergency use authorization comes as COVID-19 cases are increasing across the country and federal health officials are warning it could get worse over the coming months. 

Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions. Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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