By now, you have probably heard a lot about testing for COVID-19 as the pandemic is evolving. There is a lot of mixed communication around testing, from the media to and social platforms. Sona Pharmacy is committed to providing you with accurate and useful information as we all navigate this pandemic.
Types of Tests:
Currently, there are 2 main types of testing: diagnostic and antibody.
Diagnostic tests are used to determine if you currently have COVID-19 after presenting symptoms of the virus. Most diagnostic tests are being performed at locations like your local hospital, urgent care offices, or your doctor’s office. These tests are more commonly done by a simple non-invasive swab test (think of it as a longer cotton swab) to either your nasal area or back of your throat, however, there are some blood draw options as well. These swabs are then sent to the lab to be processed and determine if you have the virus. Sona encourages you to refer to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website or call one of our pharmacists to check on what symptoms prompt a diagnostic test. You can also use the Buncombe County symptom checker by clicking here. The list of symptoms continues to be updated as we learn more about the COVID-19 disease. The CDC goes further to classify what groups of people are considered a testing priority if they show some or all the symptoms, including healthcare workers and first responders.
Hopefully within the next few months, we will see the ability to do these diagnostic tests at the point-of-care. Point-of-care tests supply results faster, within 5-30 minutes depending on the test, as opposed to the normal 3-7 days that current swab tests take to be reviewed in a lab. Point-of-care rapid testing is the next frontier of COVID-19 testing that will help all healthcare providers identify the virus quicker, react faster, and limit the spread.
The rapid point-of-care diagnostic test brings us to another important point. We now know that COVID-19 can cause asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and minimally symptomatic infections, leading to viral shedding that may result in transmission to others who are particularly vulnerable to severe disease. These patients are often referred to as asymptomatic transmitters. The point-of-care testing will help our healthcare providers identify these asymptomatic carriers. There are endless possibilities for rapid point-of-care tests, such as allowing individuals to be tested before boarding a plane to ensure they will not unknowingly spread the virus to a much larger group of people.
The other test that is getting a lot of coverage is the antibody test. An antibody test is designed to identify if you have been exposed to the virus in the past. It is important to remember that an antibody test is not diagnostic and should not be used to determine if you have an active infection. These tests are done by a simple blood draw or finger stick and can pick up antibodies that our bodies make after being exposed to a pathogen like a virus. Antibodies show up later in the infection process so they cannot be used to pick up an active infection. Most of these tests look for 2 different antibodies: IgM and IgG. The only thing important to remember here is IgM shows up first and IgG is the antibody that shows up later in the immune response and is around longer-term in the body.
The antibody tests have some limitations at this point in time. Currently, we do not know if the presence of these antibodies confers any long-term, real immunity to the virus, that needs more research. Other countries, including Germany and the UK, are using antibody tests on the entire population to determine where the virus has been or how widespread in a particular area it was. In the future, these tests could provide critical information as we work to reintroduce gatherings to our community, such as:
- – Testing employees before returning back to work
- – Testing all at-risk populations and following up with track/trace measures to learn more about how the virus spreads
- – Testing anyone willing since those with antibodies could potentially help with vaccine development
Sona is continuing to investigate both diagnostic and antibody testing options. We will keep you updated on what is available at the pharmacy and within our community.
If you are experiencing any symptoms, please utilize the Buncombe County Symptom checker for more help: