Dual COVID-flu antigen home-test kits go on sale in Japan

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Dual COVID-flu test kits on sale

Japan's health ministry has approved the retail sale of government-certified antigen self-testing kits that can detect both COVID-19 and influenza. In anticipation of a potential double outbreak, officials hope to reduce the burden on medical institutions by allowing people to conduct tests at home. Prior to this approval, these dual test kits were only available to healthcare institutions.

A certified antigen test kit
A certified antigen test kit that can check both COVID-19 and influenza

Pharmacists guidance required

People can purchase the test kits at pharmacies, drug stores or online retailers, on the condition that pharmacists explain how to properly collect samples and what to do if they test positive.

How to use the kits

As with current antigen test kits for the coronavirus, users take samples from their nose with a swab and insert into the test receptacle. If the specimen contains antigens for either the coronavirus, influenza or both, lines will appear on the test strip. Taking a picture of the test kit is recommended because the lines may fade as time passes.

Wait before taking the test

Tokita Akifumi, a doctor and member of the public health committee of the Japan Pediatric Association, warns that some users may see a false negative if they test immediately upon developing a fever from the coronavirus or influenza. He says influenza in particular may take time to show a positive result after a fever. For more precise results, he suggests people use the kit about 12 hours after developing a fever.

What to do next

People who test positive for the coronavirus should apply for a follow-up at a health center in the vicinity of their home and recuperate at home. If the condition is serious, for either coronavirus or influenza, people should call a doctor. If the condition is mild, people should arrange a telephone or online medical consultation.

Distinguish between high and low risk

Toho University Professor Tateda Kazuhiro, a member of the government's coronavirus advisory panel, says it is important to distinguish whether a person is suffering from the coronavirus or influenza, so those at low risk of serious illness can receive treatment through online consultations or other means and recuperate at home, while those at high risk can be prioritized at fever clinics.

Tateda warns that coronavirus and influenza may return positive test results at different times, so a dual negative does not guarantee there is no infection. He urged people to test again the following day if they are unwell and avoid going out if they show any signs of sickness.

Test kit supply

As of December 14, one product is ready for sale. Products by other firms have been given the green light, but the makers say it is difficult to both sell them commercially and maintain stocks for medical institutions.

The ministry wants to secure more test kits for the general public. On December 9, officials said those already used at medical institutions can go on sale without approval.

This information is accurate as of December 19, 2022.