Doctor clears up confusion about COVID-19 testing

Technology behind COVID-19 tests

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WBRC) - Since the beginning of this pandemic, we’ve been hearing that testing is one defense we all have to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

But with new information coming out daily about the virus, how can you be sure if you got a “good” test?

Deputy Health Officer for the Jefferson County Health Department, Dr. David Hicks, said there are two types of technology being used to test for COVID-19 right now: the PCR test and the nasal swab.

Both tests require a specimen from your nasal passages, but the PCR goes deep into your sinuses while the nasal swab doesn’t go as far.

Many people forego getting tested for COVID-19, citing pain and discomfort associated with the test.

Dr. Hicks said scientists are working on more comfortable options like a mouth swab, but those are still in the development phase.

He said the PCR is the gold standard of COVID-19 testing, but it’s really the technique patients should be most concerned about to be sure they’ve received an accurate test.

“With the nasal technique, because you’re not going so deep back into the sinuses, at least at the health department and the state health department and the local health department here, we recommend when the swab is inserted up the nose, putting some external pressure on the nostril, rotating it, holding it in for several seconds, then removing and doing the other nostril. So, when you put that pressure on the outside and twist it that increases the chance that you will get a good specimen and decrease the chance of getting a false-negative,” Dr. Hicks explained.

Dr. Hicks also wanted to clear up some confusion about when you should be tested for the virus.

He said if you’ve been exposed to the virus, you should get tested, but ideally, you should self-isolate and wait five days to get tested.

And while you are waiting for those results to come back, he says you should quarantine yourself so you don’t potentially spread the virus to anyone else.

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