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In some influenza surveillance systems, timely transport to laboratories for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing is challenging. Guidelines suggest that samples can be stored at 4°C for up to 96 hours but the effect of longer storage times has not been systematically evaluated. We collected nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal specimens from patients in Kenya and stored them in viral transport medium at 2 to 8°C before testing for influenza A and B using real-time RT-PCR. From April 2008 to November 2010, we collected 7,833 samples; 940 (12%) were positive for influenza. In multivariable analysis, specimens stored for six days were less likely to be influenza-positive compared to specimens stored between zero and one day (adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 0.49, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.27-0.93). There was no statistically significant difference in influenza positivity of specimens stored for five days compared to zero to one day. There was no statistically significant relationship between days in refrigeration and cycle threshold (Ct) values for positive samples (p=0.31). We found that samples could remain in storage for at least five days without affecting the proportion-positive of samples, potentially increasing the feasibility of including influenza surveillance sites in remote areas. .


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