Rapid tests will allow GI diagnosis in 24 hours during Olympics

Rapid tests will allow the NHS to diagnose GI diseases in 24 hours during the London Olympics, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has revealed.

The influx of international visitors during the Olympics is expected to increase the spread of tropical diseases for which symptoms may not be recognised.

The HPA has developed a GI test to quickly detect viruses, bacteria and parasites which cause vomiting and diarrhoea. The test will form part of its plans to support efforts to control disease spread during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The HPA will also launch improved symptom surveillance in emergency services and web-based reporting tools for clinicians, and predicts the developments will raise the overall standard of NHS public health systems.

Dr Gillian Smith, head of real-time syndromic surveillance at the HPA in Birmingham, said the new tool would substantially reduce the time for diagnosis.

‘The typical culture of a GI bug normally takes 48 hours or more and we will have the ability to take a clinical sample and come out with an answer six to eight hours later,’ she said. ‘This is a big improvement.’

The HPA also said that surveillance of symptoms would be extended to emergency services as they are more likely than other NHS services to be used by international visitors.

'The purpose is to provide early warnings and detect information that may lead to further investigation for any outbreaks,' Dr Smith said. 'We now have one of the best suites of sydromic systems in the world covering primary care to emergency departments.'

An undiagnosed serious infectious illness surveillance system has also been introduced in paediatric and adult intensive care units to detect potentially emerging infections. The system allows clinicians to report directly using a customised web-based reporting tool.

The HPA have also given advice to health departments across the world about the testing and precautions international attendees of the games should take before coming to London.

Justin McCracken, chief executive of the HPA said: 'Other countries have reported improved public health systems as a result of hosting Olympic and Paralympic Games and we expect the same for the UK. In fact, we intend to continue with our enhanced syndromic surveillance systems after the Games have finished, as a legacy.'

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