1. When Should I Get Tested
The most obvious time to get tested for COVID-19 is when you have noticeable symptoms.
The Symptoms of COVID are: (note that many resemble conditions such as seasonal allergies, the common cold and the flu…that’s one reason we strongly suggest getting the flu shot immediately!)
- A cough
- Sore throat
- Minor congestion
- Low-grade fever
- Loss of taste or smell (mainly associated with the Delta variant)
If you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you should get tested whether or not you have symptoms yourself.
- This test should be done 5 days after exposure.
- CDC definition of exposure or close contact is being within 6 feet (2 meters) for a total of 15 minutes or more, over a 24-hour period.
Get tested between three and five days after traveling internationally regardless of your symptoms.
- If you’re traveling domestically
- Fully vaccinated people should get tested only if they develop symptoms
- Unvaccinated people should get tested three to five days after returning
- Before attending gatherings:
- You should use home tests or PCR tests before attending gatherings with people that you don’t live with, especially if you don’t know everyone’s vaccination or booster status
2. When is Someone With COVID Contagious?
A person with COVID-19 is considered infectious starting two days before they develop symptoms, or two days before the date of their positive test if they do not have symptoms
- The original variants had an incubation period of four to five days but with omicron, it’s two to three days
3. What Are The Different Tests
Currently, there are two types of diagnostic tests:
- Molecular (RT-PCR) tests that detect the virus’s genetic material
- These require testing by a laboratory service
- Often requires 1-3 days to get results
- This is the most accurate test option for determining the presence of a virus
- The PCR test is not a test that we use after a Covid infection because it is so sensitive that it can identify traces of the virus many weeks after a person is no longer infectious and can stay positive for weeks to months
- Antigen tests that detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus
- These are the “home tests” that provide results immediately
- While not as accurate as the PCR for initial diagnosis but, they have a very useful place in our COVID arsenal
- Samples are typically collected with a nasal or throat swab, or saliva collected by spitting into a tube.
- Results available in 15 minutes
- Most accurate if you have symptoms of COVID…sometimes the test can read negative at first but becomes positive as the exposure progresses.. so feel free to retest as that’s why the kit contains two tests
- Please get a PCR test to confirm the results
- Antibody tests are also available for some special purposes
- They look for antibodies that are made by the immune system in response to a threat, such as a specific virus
- Antibodies can take several days or weeks to develop after you have an infection and may stay in your blood for several weeks after recovery.
4. Quarantine and Isolation: What Do I Need To Know?
What Is the difference between the two?