A lot of people get mistaken with COVID-19 Rapid and PCR Tests.
So what's the Difference Between COVID-19 Rapid and PCR Tests?
November 9, 2020
Testing for COVID-19 has tremendous value when it comes to trying to contain the spread of the COVID virus. According to Dr. Joseph Bustamante, Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Healthcare, “The variety of testing platforms for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) available today can be rather confusing. There are some clear indications as to which test you should get and some not so clear reasons.”
WHAT TYPES OF TESTS ARE AVAILABLE?
There are essentially two broad categories of testing:
- Antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test). This test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. It can be done in a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Turnaround time for results is usually very quick and in some cases, results can be reported within 15 minutes.
- PCR test. PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms. The test can be done in a clinic, hospital, or even in your car. Turnaround time is longer, generally in the 2-3 day range but results can be in as little as 24 hours. When demand is high, results can take a week or longer.
WHO SHOULD GET A RAPID TEST?
Rapid tests are considered most accurate in a patient who is having symptoms of COVID-19. While the rapid test can get you results very quickly, the results may not always be accurate.
WHAT IF I HAVE A NEGATIVE RAPID TEST BUT STILL HAVE SYMPTOMS?
The current recommendation is to have a confirmation test performed (the PCR test) if you still have symptoms and have had a negative rapid test. This is especially true if you’ve had a high-risk exposure. High risk exposure is considered more than 15 minutes of contact with a COVID-positive individual in a 24-hour period and you have been within 6 feet of this individual.
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