Testing, Testing …
Finding out if you have Covid-19
If you have not been vaccinated for Covid-19 and are experiencing symptoms of the virus, have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, or have been in situations in which you were not able to physically distance from others, your next step should be contacting your healthcare provider to discuss testing options and quarantining while awaiting the results.
If you have been fully vaccinated for Covid-19 and have no symptoms, you do not need to be tested following an exposure to someone with Covid-19. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks following a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms ranging from mild to severe may appear 2 to 14 days following exposure to the virus. You may have been exposed to the virus if you traveled recently, attended any gatherings, dinners or other events, or were in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor settings for at least 15 minutes.
Among the reported symptoms of the Covid-19 are: a cough, a sore throat, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, a headache, a new loss of taste or smell, congestions or a runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
Types of Testing
Available testing includes a viral test and an antibody test. Testing results can take a few hours to several days, depending upon the type of test and the location of the testing site.
If you cannot be tested by your healthcare provider, ask your provider about an at-home testing option.
A provider swabs the inside of your nose, so a mucus sample can be tested for the virus that causes Covid-19. A viral test indicates whether you have a current infection.
If your test is negative, you most likely did not have Covid-19 when the test was administered, or the sample was taken too early in your infection. The negative result does not give you a total clean bill of health, and you still need to protect yourself and others from the virus. You may have been exposed after the test was given, and you can still get sick. You may need to have another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes Covid-19.
If you test positive for Covid-19, you will need to isolate to prevent others from getting sick. Stay home and recover. Be sure to inform your provider if any of your symptoms worsen or if you develop any new symptoms.
Your provider will guide your recovery and inform you when it’s safe enough for you to stop isolating. In general, if it has been at least ten days since you first became sick, if your symptoms are improving steadily, and if you have had no fever in the last 24 hours (without the help of any medication), you may get the OK to stop isolating. Most likely you will not be retested.
If you have a compromised immune system or other underlying condition or if you have a more severe case of Covid-19, your provider may recommend a longer period of isolation and recovery.
Antibody testing is also known as serology testing. A provider takes a blood sample to check for antibodies, which may show whether you have had a past infection with the virus that causes Covid-19.
Antibodies — proteins your immune system produces in response to an infection — help fight off infections and may provide immunity, which is protection against getting the disease again.
It can take up to three weeks to develop sufficient antibodies to be seen in an antibody test. Antibodies may be detected in your blood for more than several months after you recover from Covid-19.
An antibody test cannot determine whether you have Covid-19 currently.
You may be tested for antibodies if you have had symptoms of Covid-19 but have not been tested before or if you would like to donate plasma.
A negative test indicated that you have no antibodies, and most likely were not infected with the Covid-19 virus in the past (unless sufficient time has not yet passed for antibodies to be detected).
If you test positive for antibodies, you have had a past infection with the virus, even if you have never experiences any symptoms.
The extent and duration of antibody protection against Covid-19 are unknown at this time. Rare cases of reinfection have been reported.
Continue Safe Practices
No matter which testing your provider advises you to have, what your testing results are or how well and quickly you recover should you become ill, in the interest of everyone’s health and well-being, you still will need to continue to take precautions. Wear a face mask when other people are around, wash your hands frequently, avoid indoor gatherings and keep at least six feet from others.