COVID-19 or Coronavirus disease is an infectious disease that causes severe respiratory illness. This new strain of coronavirus affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate symptoms and might not need hospitalization.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Body ache
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell and taste
COVID-19 has caused serious illness in older people and those with underlying chronic health problems like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver or kidney disease, obesity, cancer, etc
COVID-19 tests: Need of the Hour
Testing for COVID-19 can identify you as a positive or negative case of coronavirus disease. It is very important as you can only get the right treatment or self-isolate if you know that you have contracted the coronavirus.
Different types of COVID-19 tests available
India has stood relatively strong in her fight against COVID-19 with a strategy “Test, Track and Treat”. Different methods of testing have been launched to trace COVID-19 infection rapidly and efficiently.
Some of the most commonly used tests used are:
1) Molecular (RT-PCR) tests
- About the test- The Molecular test, commonly known as the RT-PCR test, is a method of testing that is used to directly detect the presence of the virus in the sample. The test detects the virus’s RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus. The first step in this test is to convert this RNA to DNA using an enzyme known as the reverse transcriptase. The PCR testing then detects this DNA. Hence the name RT-PCR. These are also known as the diagnostic test and nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).
- How the sample is taken- A nasal or throat swab sample is taken.
- Time taken to get results- Results are given the same day or within 2-3 days.
- Are they accurate– These tests are the most accurate. They have a high sensitivity and specificity.
- What it shows- These tests help diagnose the active coronavirus infection. If the virus is present in the sample, the test is positive but a negative test doesn’t necessarily mean that you can not be infected, you might have taken the test in the early days.
- What it cannot show- It fails to show if you ever had COVID-19 in the past.
- Cost of RT-PCR test- Cost of the antibody test kit is somewhere between Rs 2000- Rs 3000.
In case you feel you have symptoms of COVID-19, you can approach your doctor who can further advise you for a test.
Not every laboratory in the country can conduct a COVID-19 test as the virus is highly contagious. Only NABL(National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accredited laboratories approved by ICMR are equipped to handle the COVID-19 samples. Book your COVID-19 lab test confidently with us.
What to do after an RT-PCR test?
If you test positive for the COVID-19 RT-PCR test:
The healthcare provider will guide you to follow protective steps if you feel sick.
If you test negative for COVID-19 RT-PCR test:
It means you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing or your sample might have been collected too early to detect an infection. If you develop symptoms after 3-4 days, you might need to take another lRT-PCR test to determine if you are infected.
2) COVID-19 Antigen Tests
- About the test- A COVID-19 antigen refers to any foreign matter or viral proteins in the body that triggers an immune response. This test helps identify the antigens related to the COVID-19 virus. Antigen test, also known as rapid antigen test, is a rapid diagnostic test that gives results faster than molecular tests. But there is a drawback, antigen tests have a higher chance of missing an active infection.
- How the sample is taken- Usually,anasal or throat swab sample is taken.
- Time taken to get results- Since it is a rapid test, results are delivered in 1 hour or less.
- Is another test needed– Rapid tests are usually highly accurate if you test positive however a negative result might need to be confirmed using a molecular test.
- What it shows- These tests help diagnose active coronavirus in the sample.
- What it cannot show- The Antigen test might miss an active coronavirus infection in comparison to RT-PCR tests.
- Cost of COVID-19 Antigen test- Cost of the COVID-19 antigen test kit is somewhere between Rs 400- Rs 500
3) COVID-19 Antibody Tests
- About the test– COVID-19 Antibody tests, also known as, Serology test, serological test, or Serology blood test, are screening tests for COVID-19 antibodies in your blood. It tells if you were previously infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. The antibody test does not look for the active virus but checks whether your immune system has responded to the infection.
- How the sample is taken- It is tested by drawing your blood sample.
- Time taken to get results- Results are delivered either the same day or in 1-3 days.
- Is another test needed– Sometimes a second COVID-19 antibody test might be needed for more accurate results.
- What it shows- This test helps to find out if you were infected with the virus causing COVID-19 in the past and now have antibodies against it.
- What it cannot show- A COVID-19 antibody test may not show if you have an active virus in your body causing COVID-19 infection.
- Cost of Antibody test- The cost of COVID-19 antibody test kit is somewhere between Rs 500-Rs 600.
When to seek medical help for COVID-19?
In case you have minor symptoms like mild cough and fever, consult a doctor online and provide details thoroughly and follow home quarantine. There is no obvious need to visit a doctor in person. Self-isolate and monitor your symptoms for the next 14 days. Do not ignore if your fever increases or if you get any serious symptoms such as breathlessness, mental confusion, or blue lips. These signs may warrant to seek medical help immediately.
The best way to get a COVID-19 test is to contact your nearest healthcare provider who can guide you best on testing. Meanwhile, follow social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and avoid touching your face.