How accurate is a rapid COVID-19 test?

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – When it comes to getting tested for COVID-19, the tests aren’t the same. Some can be more accurate depending on the situation.

“You can test for different things. Right now we are just testing for COVID but the kits are specific to what you are testing for,” explained Larry Snidow, a registered nurse at West Virginia Health Right. He was in a lab demonstrating how two small machines are used to process rapid tests. Each of the two machines can run one test at a time.

“It is preprogrammed. So it is a simple procedure and it takes about 15 minutes per test,” he said.

COVID-19 rapid test kits

They need the specific kits to perform the tests. Those kits are hard to come by right now. Currently, shipments are sporadic. Because of that they are running anywhere from 10 to 30 a day. The rapid tests at Health Right are PCR or “polymerase chain reaction” tests.

“When you send it off to a lab they are doing a PCR reaction,” Snidow explained. “This is very similar but it is just a way smaller scale.”

At some other facilities, antigen tests are being used for rapid COVID testing. According to the FDA, those tests can be less accurate especially when it comes to detecting early COVID infection. In some cases, you may still need to get a PCR test.

The FDA says antibody tests should not be used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection because antibodies can take several days or weeks to develop after you have an infection.

You can read more about the different testing options and the FDA’s guidance here.

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