Coronavirus (COVID-19) Testing can be divided into two types, diagnostic viral tests and antibody tests. Both of these tests use a different kind of sample to test for different hallmarks of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, and neither of them is 100% accurate. A diagnostic viral test reveals that you are having an active infection, while an antibody test tells whether you had a previous infection. Corona testing is vital to curb the spread of the virus, as contacts can be traced and quarantine can be started sooner, especially for individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, sore throat, or difficulty breathing or any close contact with a confirmed case. Hence it is important to always practice preventive measures such as social distancing, frequent hand-washing, and wearing a face mask to avoid the spread of the virus, regardless if you test positive or negative.
Diagnostic viral tests check samples from your respiratory system, such as a nose swab, throat swab, or saliva, to determine if you have an active infection of COVID-19, while antibody tests (or serology tests) check your blood, through a finger prick or taking blood from your vein, for antibodies which shows that you had a past infection from the virus causing COVID-19. The decision about testing, and which test to use are made by your doctor depending on your current condition. The most commonly used COVID-19 test is the diagnostic viral test to determine if you have a current infection, as most people present when they have symptoms of COVID-19 or if they had close contact with a confirmed case. The diagnostic viral test is also important to detect confirmed COVID-19 cases early so that proper medical care, quarantine instructions, and contact tracing can be done.
Many people would wonder what to expect when they go for a COVID-19 viral test, here are some descriptions of what happens to calm your distressed mind. Firstly, it is important to get information regarding your testing appointment with your doctor. When you arrive for the test, you will be asked to blow your nose and tilt your head back slightly. During the test, the healthcare professional will wear protective clothes, mask and face shields to collect samples of your saliva or respiratory fluids from deep inside both sides of your nose and the back of your throat. It is done with a 6-inch long, flexible swab (like a long Q-tip), after insertion, it will be twirled around for about 15 seconds to collect a sample of secretions. It may be mildly uncomfortable, causing you to tear up and have a gag reflex, but it only takes a few seconds. If you have a cough with mucus, your doctor might want to collect the samples of your mucus also. The samples taken are then packaged in a container and sent for laboratory analysis for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, results will then be shared with you in 24-48 hours via your doctor or the lab.
If you test positive for a COVID-19 viral test, know the protective steps to take such as social distancing, wearing a face mask, and frequent hand washing. Stay home unless you need to get medical care for emergencies such as high fever, trouble breathing, confusion, or bluish lips or face. If you test negative, you probably were not infected at the time of testing but there is still a chance of getting infected and spreading the virus later. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a priority system for testing, at the top of the list are people who have COVID-19 symptoms and are admitted to the hospital, working in a healthcare facility, first responders such as emergency medical technicians, police officers, firefighters, or working or living in crowded places such as long-term care facilities or prisons.