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February 14 2022 12:00 am

What test is best at detecting omicron?

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – COVID-19 testing has been ever-changing and evolving since the pandemic started and we’re still learning which tests are the most accurate.

After two years of the pandemic, most of us have probably taken one covid test or another. It’s usually done with a swab up your nose, but some health experts say when it comes to omicron, your best chance at detecting the virus is through the mouth.

“If you’re doing a rapid test and just doing the nose there’s a good chance that you’re going to miss omicron,” said Dr. Angie Settle, Executive Director of West Virginia Health Right.

West Virginia Health Right in Charleston tests 600 to 800 people on a busy day. They’ve found when it comes to rapid tests, omicron is better detected by swabbing the inside of your cheeks.

“What we’ve found and with research as well is that with omicron it seems to be first and most prominent in the oral pharynx in the back of the throat. So there’s been reports of people who’ve had their nose swabbed that came up negative and then they have the symptoms and you test them three or four days later and they’re actually positive,” added Settle.

Not only could the mouth test be more accurate, but it’s also definitely more comfortable. “I’ve always come [to WV Health Right] because, well, the first time I didn’t know they did the oral, but I’ve come here and it’s so easy, drive-through you get your throat swabbed and you’re on your way,” said Kandi Kimble, who was receiving a test Tuesday afternoon.

But not everyone is switching over. At the Kanawha Charleston Health Department, they are still using the standard PCR test and swabbing the nose, which is still good at detecting the new variant. “There is some literature stating that because the way the Omicron is replicated in the bronchioles, it makes more sense for people to do the oropharyngeal swabs, for right now what we’re seeing it’s still adequately picked up because the test is so sensitive on PCR,” said Dr. Sherri Young, the Health Officer.

Dr. Young says its a situation they are monitoring daily, “Until there’s a recommendation, of course, we’re amenable to those changes, but it is something that we’re seeing anecdotally and across the United States that people are reporting that they’re having a better detection rate with those oropharyngeal swabs.”

But both health organizations say, if you feel any kind of covid symptoms, treat it as if you are positive.

“You want to act like you’re positive, it’s out there, it’s very prevalent right now so if you have symptoms act like your positive until proven otherwise,” said Settle. “Don’t be a hero, you don’t have to go to work if you’re sick, don’t send your child to school if they’re feeling sick, stay home, recover, feel better,” added Young.

So when it comes to those at-home tests, doctors say to follow whatever instructions it comes with.

Also, if it does come back positive, make sure you report it to your local health department so they can properly contact trace and guide you with treatments.

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