Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a virus infection that originated in Wuhan, China. It has spread to most countries in the world.
The number of cases of infections from COVID-19 is increasing rapidly. Countries like China, Italy, Iran, etc. are the most affected by this deadly virus. It has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The COVID-19 infection spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing. It also spreads through close contact including touching an infected person.
An effective and low-cost method of dealing with the infection is to practice self-quarantine and remain indoors for a few weeks. This helps greatly to break the chain of virus transfusion.
Running nose, fever, respiratory problems, etc. are some common symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
There are different types of tests- conventional, rapid, and self-tests- available for COVID-19. The salient features of these tests are discussed below:
When You Should Get Tested for COVID-19
Ideally, if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 like cough, running nose, fever, throat pain, etc., then you should get yourself tested. Currently, the testing is being limited to people who have advanced symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
This is due to the shortage of testing facilities and infrastructure. You should strongly consider getting yourself tested only if the symptoms become persistent.
If the symptoms are persistent and continue for more than 3-4 days, then you should consider getting tested.
This also ensures that your COVID-19 infection tests are more accurate and reliable.
You need to find a testing center near your place for getting the test done.
If you are tested positive, then you need to be put into quarantine with immediate effect. This will protect others from getting infected due to the transfusion of the infection.
Why It is Important to Get Tested
Testing is of paramount importance in reducing the spread of COVID-19 infection. There is no known treatment for this deadly infection. Hence, early identification and diagnosis become critical.
It helps in taking timely corrective action which is important for breaking the chain of transmission. Getting tested helps to establish if a person is infected with COVID-19.
If so, they need to be put on immediate quarantine and medication. This also ensures that they don’t act as active carriers of coronavirus and don’t end up infecting other people around them.
Though testing is important for stopping COVID-19 infection spread, the current global testing facilities are severely limited. All persons cannot be tested with the present testing infrastructure.
Only those people exhibiting severe and advanced symptoms are being tested in most countries. The testing process is being prioritized for testing the most likely infected persons.
Manufacturing more COVID-19 rapid test kits are the need of the hour. It allows more people to get tested and helps in putting them in quarantine for checking the spread of the virus.
How to Perform a Rapid Test
A rapid test is performed using a COVID-19 rapid test kit. The biggest benefit of this test is that it provides instant results. You can use rapid test kits and get the results in 10 minutes.
You will need to draw the specimen for testing. The specimen can be whole blood or plasma. The test specimen should be put in the test well of the COVID-19 rapid test kit. The test results can be interpreted by observing the quality control line (C) and the test line (T).
If you observe only the quality control line and no test line, it means the test result is negative. If both the quality control line and test line appear, then it denotes a positive test result. In such a case, the infected person should be immediately quarantined without delay.
They should be also put on relevant medication. If the quality control line does not appear in a test, then it represents an invalid test. The test should be repeated to get an accurate and reliable result.
The test result can become unreliable if the specimen is left in the test well for more than 15 minutes. Hence, it is recommended to check the test readings within 10 minutes for getting an accurate test result.
What is COVID-19 Self-Testing
HIV self-testing involves the collection of specimens by oneself and performing the test. You will need to check and interpret your results in this mode of testing.
Self-testing is a screening test for checking the presence of COVID-19 infection. It is not a confirmatory test.
If the self-testing result is positive, then you must get yourself tested through laboratory-based testing for getting the confirmation on infection status.
There are two types of self-testing- home self-testing and home sample collection.
In the home self-testing, the user collects the sample and performs the test on their own.
You will also need to interpret the test results by yourself. This can be done by following the instructions provided in the test kit.
In the home sample collection method, you need to collect the blood sample on your own and then send it to a laboratory for testing.
This results in an accurate and confirmatory test result as the test is conducted in standard laboratory conditions.
Difference Between Conventional, Rapid, and Self-Testing
One of the key differences between these tests is the time taken to get the results and the accuracy of the results.
Conventional tests are conducted in laboratories and hence it takes longer to get the test results. However, the test results from conventional tests are completely conclusive and reliable.
The results leave no scope for ambiguity.
Rapid tests provide COVID-19 infection results in under 15 minutes. You can use these rapid test kits to get reliable and fast results.
This is helpful as it leads to early detection of the infection. It facilitates timely corrective action which is critical for checking the spread of the virus.
Self-testing can be in two forms. You can either collect the specimen by yourself and send it to a laboratory for testing or you can do the testing by yourself.
The latter involves checking and interpreting the test results by the user. This can reduce the reliability of the test due to misinterpretation of the results by the user. Self-testing is convenient and quick compared to the conventional testing method.
However, the downside is a lack of any professional support and counseling by the experts. The results can also be delayed if the sample collected is sent to a laboratory for testing.
Another important difference is the cost of performing the test. conventional COVID-19 tests are costly.
This is a key reason why governments globally are inclined to test only those with aggravated symptoms. Such an approach focuses on reducing the number of unnecessary tests by prioritizing the persons to be tested.
While this helps to reduce the cost and resources needed for testing, there is enough scope for leaving out people who may develop infection symptoms later.
Hence, such an approach is not entirely foolproof in checking the virus spread.
The rapid testing kits and self-testing methods are more cost-effective compared to conventional tests. You can test yourself at your home using a self-testing method. It also helps in maintaining your anonymity if your test is positive for COVID-19 infection.