Since the onset of the pandemic, a myriad of individuals all over the globe have been tested for COVID-19. In the past three years, the importance of reliable and accessible testing has been and still is a top priority.
Individuals get tested for various reasons, not just when having symptoms associated with COVID-19. Such testing is provided to people traveling internationally, those who have had exposure to an infected person, prior to surgery, etc.
Numerous clinical laboratories offer different tests, such as COVID Testing by CoviLab, by employing the latest research technology.
Learn about each type in detail.
Types of COVID-19 tests
Tests for this strain of the coronavirus are divided into PCR, antigen, and antibody tests, searching for current or past signs of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are considered the most accurate method of screening for viral RNA presence, which can be detected in the body regardless of whether a person has symptoms. Consequently, they provide fairly accurate results of COVID-19 presence at the very onset of the illness.
PCR tests can be administered with a nasal or oral swab. Nasal swabs are inserted approximately two inches into the nose of individuals and swirled around for a couple of seconds. Afterward, the swab is removed and immediately sent to a laboratory for testing.
These swabs are not only fast but also accurate. People usually experience a sensation that resembles tickling when the swab is still present in their noses. Following its removal, they might experience sneezing and runny eyes. In contrast, saliva tests provide the same accuracy while reducing the level of discomfort. These are self-administered, as you complete them by yourself after being instructed how to do it.
This form of PCR testing can be completed at testing centers or even at home as long as the person doing it provides enough spit to fill out the tube. The samples are then given to the supervisor or sent to the lab in a UPS envelope. Nevertheless, the saliva method isn’t recommended to people with low production of saliva, such as children of a very young age or people who have had a stroke. Read more about the physiology of salivary secretion.
Antigen, otherwise called rapid, tests look for certain proteins on the virus’s surface. In case these proteins are present, a colored line will appear, which indicates infection. The major benefit of antigen tests is the speed at which they provide results, ranging between fifteen and thirty minutes. These don’t have to be sent to a laboratory for confirmation.
In addition, they’re administered with a nasal swab but are usually less reliable for individuals without any symptoms. A follow-up might be required as well. If the result is positive, it means the tested person has COVID-19. Numerous studies investigate the reliability of antigen tests and have found that these were more accurate in individuals who had symptoms. The average accuracy in symptomatic individuals is 72%, whereas the accuracy in asymptomatic individuals is 58%.
Antibody or serology tests search for antibodies in your blood that fight the COVID-19 virus. Their purpose is to show how much of the population has already been infected. It’s paramount to remember that they don’t show who is currently infected, as the antibodies are generated after a few weeks. This time period is enough for the virus to be no longer present in your system. The production of antibodies can last five to seven months or even longer.
Unlike nasal and saliva swabs, blood samples are used to detect the presence of antibodies. The blood is collected either by blood draw or a finger stick. The following link, https://www.livescience.com/antibodies.html, explains what antibodies are. There are certain things that antibody tests cannot tell us, including information about whether someone is currently infected with COVID-19 and whether a person can get re-infected. Also, they cannot distinguish between antibodies acquired through vaccination versus infection.
What is the testing process like?
Nowadays, there’s a multitude of testing centers, which facilitate the testing procedure as much as possible. The standard process is for the person to book an appointment, drive up to the center, get tested, and get the results over the phone. The PCR tests meant for travel are accepted by national and international airlines. The results of the rapid version are available within three to five hours, whereas the results from the standard version are ready within 24 hours.
Individuals get tested for numerous reasons, such as having COVID-19 symptoms, having a suspected close contact with the virus, before and following travel, for screening, etc. Depending on your reason, the testing center will choose the most appropriate test for you.
Actions after getting results
If the result is positive, you should isolate for a minimum of five days by following the isolation timelines in your respective country. Make sure to ask for a follow-up, confirmatory test if you received such recommendations from a healthcare professional. Afterward, you should monitor your symptoms for ten days after your exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, the symptoms might include cough, fever or chills, fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, muscle or body aches, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, etc.
In the meantime, you should think about the people you recently had contact with. More specifically, consider the contacts you had two days before getting tested or prior to noticing any symptoms. Such information will be helpful in slowing the spread down.
In the event of a negative result, assuming you are vaccinated, you can return to normal activities and wear a mask in indoor areas where the risk of getting infected is high. If you aren’t vaccinated and have exposure to the virus or symptoms, isolate yourself for at least five days. If you aren’t vaccinated and have no symptoms, take the necessary steps to get vaccinated and protect yourself.
The bottom line
Make sure the testing center you choose offers accurate and rapid results!