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Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center using DNA fingerprinting to ID viruses

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- If you are feeling sick, you are not alone. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center says viral respiratory infections are on the rise.

"There's a whole variety of viruses that are circulating," said Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert.

Typically, doctors cannot do much to help the average patient who has a virus except tell them to stay home, get rest and drink plenty of fluids.

But for infants and elderly patients with compromised immune systems, a seemingly routine virus could be much more dangerous.

"Every year we see it, particularly elderly people or people with underlying diseases get pneumonia from it and are then admitted to the hospital," Ohl said.

Doctors at WFBMC are using DNA fingerprinting to identify what kind of virus patients who come into the hospital have.

"In an hour's time after obtaining a swab or a sample from the back of a person's nose, we can get this in the machine and look for the DNA," Ohl said.

The test tells doctors if a patient has respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus or the flu and helps them determine if further action is needed.

It also allows the hospital to know what's going on in the community, track different viruses over time and tell patients what to expect.