Many people use rapid at home COVID-19 tests to ensure that they have not contracted the virus. However, many medical officials are expressing concerns over the accuracy of test results.
Receiving one negative test result does n0t necessarily mean that someone doesn’t have COVID-19. According to the FDA, people conducting at home tests should perform multiple COVID-19 tests over the course of several days. While positive results are typically accurate, it is very likely to receive a false negative from an at home antigen test. Experts are saying that inaccurate results have been more common in people with symptoms of the BA.5 subvariant and are recommending follow up testing even if one receives a negative result.
Repeat COVID-19 Tests
Dr. Ralph Gonzalez at the University of California, San Francisco recommends repeating antigen testing within 24 to 48 hours for the first negative result. This is because there can be a delay in the rapid test showing a positive result, especially if one notices COVID-19 symptoms early on.
Many people have not received positive results until several days of testing later, which medical experts say is very common. The FDA states that rapid antigen COVID-19 tests accurately detect COVID-19 infection about 80% of the time. However, a PCR COVID-19 test has a higher detection rate of 95%. Despite the differences in accuracy, many choose to use rapid at home tests because results are available within minutes, while PCR tests can take a day or two for results to come back.
COVID-19 Tests When Symptomatic
When one is suffering from COVID-like symptoms and receives a negative rapid test result, the FDA recommends retesting within 48 hours. If that second rapid test comes back negative but the symptoms are still present, then a PCR test is recommended. The FDA highly encourages repeat testing with at home COVID-19 tests.
The delay in a positive result for rapid antigen tests can be attributed to a couple of reasons. Firstly, infection with the new omnicron variants typically starts in the throat. This means that it can take several days for the infection to reach the nose. Therefore, nasal swab tests might not pick up the virus as it hasn’t traveled to that part of the body yet.
Also, people who received COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters may suffer from false negative results. This is because their immune systems are likely to trigger symptoms earlier on to help fight off COVID-19. Therefore, the levels of COVID-19 in the body might be too low for a rapid test to detect, especially at first.
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The Seattle Times (2022, August 17). Officials warn of misleading COVID rapid test results: Sick but ‘negative’. Retrieved from: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/officials-warn-of-misleading-covid-rapid-test-results-sick-but-negative/