Diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is done to find out if you are currently infected with SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The FDA has approved the following types of tests to diagnose COVID-19 infection:
COVID-19 smear test (molecular / PCR)
The COVID-19 test is used to diagnose the presence of the COVID-19 virus by testing a swab sample in a diagnostic lab. This COVID-19 test, also called a molecular test, detects the genetic material of the virus using a laboratory method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). A fluid sample is collected by injecting a long nasal swab (nasopharyngeal swab) into the nostril and drawing the fluid from the back of the nose, or using a shorter nasal swab (middle turbinate swab) to obtain a sample.
In some cases, a long swab is inserted into the back of your throat (oropharyngeal swab) or you can spit it into a tube to collect a saliva sample. Results can be available in minutes if analyzed on site, or in days – or longer in areas with test processing delays – if sent to a third-party laboratory. PCR tests are very accurate when performed correctly by a healthcare professional, but in some cases the rapid lateral flow test may be missed.
This COVID-19 test detects certain proteins in the virus. By using a long nasal swab to take a fluid sample, some antigen tests can give results in minutes. The rest can be sent to the laboratory for analysis. A positive antigen test result is considered accurate if the instructions are followed carefully, but there is an increased chance of false negative results – this means that you can get the virus but get a negative result. Depending on the situation, your doctor may recommend a PCR test to confirm a negative antigen test result.
A PCR test called Flu SC2 Multiplex analysis can detect any of three viruses at the same time: COVID-19 virus, influenza A and influenza B (flu). Only one sample is needed to test for all three viruses, and this can be useful during flu season. But a negative result does not exclude the possibility of any of these infections. Thus, the diagnostic process may involve more steps depending on symptoms, potential impacts, and your doctor’s clinical judgment.
A diagnostic test for COVID-19 is required if:
You have symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, fatigue, or shortness of breath. You have no symptoms, but you have had close contact with persons who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus or is suspected of having one. Close contact means you are within 2 meters of someone who is infected with COVID-19. But if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the past three months, you don’t need to get tested. If you have been fully vaccinated and have had close contact with someone with the COVID-19 virus, get tested 3-5 days after contact.
You have participated in activities that increase your risk of contracting COVID-19 and have not stayed at least 2 meters away from others, such as travel, large gatherings, or crowded premises. Your doctor, another healthcare professional, or the public health department will recommend a test procedure.
How do you get ready for the COVID-19 test?
There is no special preparation for a COVID-19 diagnostic test. You must have a testing appointment that is scheduled week in advance.
What is done during the test?
When we arrive, we will explain what will happen before, during and after the test. If you have any questions, ask. The test involves analyzing a sample from the nasopharynx. This is a nasal swab to collect a sample from the upper part of the throat behind the nose. This test is performed using a long cotton swab that is gently inserted into the nose. It can be inconvenient, but the collection process is very fast. The sample is then placed in a vial and sent to our diagnostic laboratory for analysis.
How long will the test take? How do you get your test results?
The test itself should take no more than five minutes.
Most test results are available within 24 hours of sample collection. If you have any questions, you can contact our team. For more information on COVID-19, visit our website or government hotline for more information. If you suspect you may have COVID-19, call our laboratory. If you are asymptomatic but have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19, follow the advice of your doctor or public health department for testing. It is best to get tested for COVID-19 5-7 days after you have been around someone with COVID-19. If you get tested too early, the test may not detect the virus.
The main stages of the PCR test
You will be provided with detailed instructions with your PCR test kit. If you are running a test on a test site and need support, a trained assistant can help you.