The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is at the helm of testing in Canada as the country's leading public health infectious disease laboratory. The scientists are testing samples from across the country, as well as those from Mexico.
But with Canadian cases of swine flu popping up from coast to coast, provincial public health laboratories are also involved in the urgent effort to identify swine flu cases.
When someone visits their doctor or a hospital complaining of flu-like symptoms and they have been to Mexico in the last seven days or if they have been in contact with a person with a confirmed case of swine flu, the doctor will take a respiratory specimen. Doctors may also use their discretion to test someone who appears to have a particularly nasty bout of the flu.
A swab is taken through the nose from the nasopharynx, the area of the upper throat behind the nose. It is then shipped off to a lab. The whole process from swab to swine flu diagnosis can take anywhere from one to five days, according to officials in several provinces.
The results of the first tests sent from Nova Scotia to Winnipeg were available within a day, said the province's medical officer of health.
However, as more swine flu cases pop up and the Winnipeg lab becomes busier, Dr. Robert Strang expects that time frame to lengthen.