More extensive home testing has promise as well as limitations. Here’s what doctors say you should know.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Thursday that the rapid test has “a very unique ability to detect what is most important to public health, which is the answer to the question, ‘ Am I contagious?” Michael Mina said on Thursday. Online forum organized by University of California, San Francisco.
“You can go from zero to super-spreader levels of the virus in a 24-hour window and then drop very quickly,” said Dr Meena, who is a big proponent of rapid testing. The rapid tests “do a great job of identifying those individuals very quickly,” he said.
Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the sale of another rapid test, the Flowflex COVID-19 Home Test, a move the FDA said could soon double at-home testing capacity. The Biden administration also announced it would spend $1 billion to boost the supply of rapid tests and that tens of millions of additional tests are expected to be available in the coming weeks. Abbott Laboratories’ Binex Now test, currently the most widely available and commonly used over-the-counter rapid antigen test, has sometimes been in short supply.
On Monday, Merck & Company and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP said they have filed an application asking US health regulators to authorize their COVID-19 pill, which can be taken at home. Data from one study showed that the antiviral drug, molnupiravir, reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by about 50% in high-risk people with mild to moderate COVID-19.
A course of treatment will begin within five days after symptoms appear, making early detection of the infection important.
“This could be one of the biggest uses of rapid tests,” says Robert Wachter, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco. “You can hop on the virus early so that it doesn’t have a chance to replicate and land in your lungs.”
However, doing more tests at home does carry risks. Doctors say that it is important to follow the instructions of the test-kit. A study comparing the performance of rapid tests in a health care setting versus in a home found a slight decrease in performance at home because laymen are more likely to make mistakes.
Doctors say you should get yourself tested whenever you have symptoms like fever, sore throat or cough, even if you think it may just be a bad cold. The sooner you seek treatment for the virus, the more effectively a doctor can treat you.
If the rapid test is positive, it is most accurate, says Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. You should assume you have COVID-19, isolate yourself and talk to your doctor, he says.
If a test is negative but your symptoms do not subside, do not rely on a test; It can be a false negative, says Alyssa Bilinsky, MD, assistant professor of health policy at Brown University School of Public Health. If you still feel lousy, “you should take the test again,” she says.
Doctors say you should test yourself if you have come in contact with anyone who has COVID-19 or people who may be infected, such as health workers.
Get ready for more home testing requests
Rapid tests can also be useful in screening before you interact with other people you wouldn’t normally be with, such as at weddings, funerals or holiday gatherings. More hosts are using rapid testing as a requirement for admission to events. However, remember that these tests are not completely reliable. Especially if you’re going to be around vulnerable people, you should keep taking other coronavirus-mitigation precautions instead of relying only on rapid tests, say doctors.
Some schools have used rapid testing to try to ease the quarantine, while keeping more children in the classroom. Some employers are even using them.
View Community Transmission Rates
Some doctors say people should adjust the rate of transmission in their community based on how often they get tested rapidly. Test more when cases are ticking, test less if transmission is low. “If community cases are very low,” Dr. Meena said at last week’s UCSF forum, “then perhaps doing rapid testing weekly or twice a week is not the right approach.” However, the spurt in cases would indicate that it is time to start testing more frequently, he said.
Betsy Morris at [email protected]