There are several COVID-19 tests you can take. Which one is the most appropriate for you? Find out here and understand how you can get tested for the virus.
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause mild to severe respiratory illness. The symptoms of coronavirus include – high fever, cold, cough, chest pain, headache, etc.
Testing and social distancing are some of the best ways to fight the pandemic. However, the asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus has made controlling the spread of the disease more difficult.
An asymptomatic person infected with coronavirus does not develop any related symptoms. In case you feel your symptoms are specific to coronavirus, you need to go for covid-19 testing.
How to Get Tested for the Coronavirus?
If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is ideal for getting yourself tested. Your primary healthcare provider can reach out to CDC or a local healthcare department that can instruct you.
It would be best if you got tested for coronavirus infection in the following circumstances.
- If you have been in close contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus, you should get tested. Even if you have been vaccinated, you should get tested, upon coming as close as 6 feet to an infected person for 15 minutes or more.
- If you were part of crowds that increase the risks of catching the virus, you should get tested. Travelers and people who have been part of gatherings have to get tested for COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated.
What are the Different Tests for Coronavirus?
The necessity of reliable and easily accessible testing to screen for this deadly disease is becoming more and more apparent. Numerous tests have been developed in the last year to check for this virus.
There are antigen tests and antibody tests. Both of them use different samples to verify the presence of the COVID-19 virus. Following are the different types of tests –
- The Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR tests
- The Lateral Flow Tests or LFTs
- Antibody/Serology Tests
RT-PCR tests screen the body for the presence of the viral RNA that may be detected before antibodies take shape in your body.
These tests can decipher the presence of the virus even in asymptomatic cases. That is, if someone has contracted the disease much earlier, an RT-PCR test can reveal it.
For an RT-PCR test, the nasopharyngeal sample of a person is extracted using a cotton swab. A substance called DNA polymerase is added to this sample to check for the virus.
RT-PCR tests need to be sent to laboratories to determine the results and often take a few days in doing so. They are more helpful in confirming the presence of the virus rather than accessing the presence of an active virus in a patient.
Lateral Flow Tests are also antigen tests, like RT-PCR. They determine the presence of active Coronavirus in the body.
A nasopharyngeal sample is extracted and placed over an absorbent pad. The sample is drawn along a stripe of antibodies that are bound to SARS-CoV-2 proteins.
In the presence of these proteins, the test will reveal a colored line, thus confirming the infection. The biggest advantage of LFTs is that they take about 15-30 minutes to reveal results. However, the accuracy of these tests has been often debated.
A study conducted in Europe and the U.S. revealed that LFTs are better at determining the infection in people who have symptoms. The sensitivity of LFTs in symptomatic people will range between 34-88%. The accuracy is estimated at around 72%. In asymptomatic cases, LFTs correctly identified only 58% of those who were infected.
An antibody test does not tell us who is infected because the antibodies are usually generated after a couple of weeks, after which the virus may have left the system. They reveal who is immune to the virus and who all were infected earlier.
People who had mild cases of COVID-19 are seen to produce antibodies for almost 5-7 months.
Using antibody tests, we can determine if there is a large population that has immunity. Further, this will develop into “herd immunity”. That is, even if someone gets infected, his/her community will be saved from infection.
Antibody tests usually use blood samples. They are used to test the immune responses in vaccinated people.
Can I Get Tested at Home?
Yes! You can get tested at home.
Some tests might require prescriptions from an authorized medical professional. You only need to answer a questionnaire online, and a healthcare representative can define the ideal test for you.
At-home tests that do not need a prescription are available in pharmacies, both online and offline. They are called DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) or OTC (Over-The-Counter) tests.
Diagnostic tests like the LFTs may deliver a negative result. This only means that it could not detect the presence of an active virus in your body.
However, there are high chances for the test to falter. False results are always possible. A false negative in a diagnostic test could mean that you are infected but do not have COVID-19. A false positive means you could have COVID-19 but aren’t infected.
These loopholes require us to be extra careful with our precautions.
Maintain safe distance at all times and avoid crowding at all costs. Keep yourself masked up. Wash your hands often. Maintain superior hygiene all the time. If you have symptoms, isolate yourself as soon as possible and get checked.
Make sure that those in close contact with you are also getting tested for the virus.
If an antibody test delivers a positive result, it need not mean that you are free to stop following safety measures. The virus can stay in your body following the infection for a while. Not everyone will be protected by the antibodies generated. It differs from person to person.
Stay safe and get tested!