What’s The Difference Between COVID-19 Rapid and PCR Tests?

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Testing for COVID-19 has tremendous value when trying to contain the spread of the COVID virus. But the variety of testing approaches for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) available today can be somewhat confusing.

What Covid-19 tests are available?

There are two broad categories of testing:

Antigen test (frequently referred to as a rapid test). 

This test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus. Turnaround time for results is usually speedy, and in most cases, results can be reported within 15 minutes.

PCR test. 

PCR testing is considered the most robust approach in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test detects RNA (or genetic material) specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those with no symptoms. The test is generally done by a trained professional, or with a home test-kit that is posted back to the lab. 

Turnaround time is longer, generally in the 2-3 day range, but results can come back in as little as 24 hours.

Who should get a rapid test?

Rapid Antigen tests are considered the 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 as accurate as the PCR.

At Vala, we recommend doing two Rapid Antigen Tests, 30 minutes apart so that you get two results.

What are False Negative and False Positives?

In those who don’t have symptoms, the false-negative rate — meaning my test is negative, but I actually have the disease — can be as high as 50%. This can have tremendous consequences as we try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The false-positive rate — meaning I test positive, but I do not really have the disease — is relatively low. If you test positive from a rapid test, it is more likely you do have the disease.

What if I have a negative Antigen Test but still have symptoms?

We recommend ordering a 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 24 hours, and you have been within 6 feet of this individual.

How can I help prevent the spread of Covid-19?

  • Wear a face mask.
  • Social distance – maintain 6 feet distance.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

As always, if you are not sure what COVID-19 test is right for you, please talk with one of our team.

We recommend getting tested if you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms (fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, the new loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, fatigue, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhoea); or for those who have a known or suspected exposure.

Order your PCR test here.

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