In autumn 2009, the swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus spread throughout South Korea. The aims of this study were to determine the clinical characteristics of children infected by the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, and to compare the rapid antigen and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
We conducted a retrospective review of patients ≥18 years of age who presented to Soonchunhyang University Hospital in Seoul with respiratory symptoms, including fever, between September 2009 and January 2010. A real-time PCR test was used to definitively diagnose 2009 H1N1 influenza A infection. Medical records of confirmed cases were reviewed for sex, age, and the time of infection. The decision to perform rapid antigen testing was not influenced by clinical conditions, but by individual factors such as economic conditions. Its sensitivity and specificity were evaluated compared to real-time PCR test results.
In total, 934 patients tested positive for H1N1 by real-time PCR. The highest number of patients (48.9%) was diagnosed in November. Most patients (48.2%) were aged between 6 and 10 years. Compared with the H1N1 real-time PCR test results, the rapid antigen test showed 22% sensitivity and 83% specificity. Seventy-eight patients were hospitalized for H1N1 influenza A virus infection, and fever was the most common symptom (97.4%).
For diagnosis of 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus infection, the rapid antigen test was inferior to the real-time PCR test in both sensitivity and specificity. This outcome suggests that the rapid antigen test is inappropriate for screening.