Flu season will be upon us before we know it. Flu and COVID-19 and, in school children, Streptococcal Tonsillitis have overlapping main symptoms of fever, chills, headache and sore throat.
You will soon be able to rule out at least one, namely COVID-19, by a home test.
COVID-19 test kits for use in the privacy and convenience of your home will be available soon, if not already.
A few have been authorized by EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) by FDA and more are in the process. Federal authorities are encouraging this development and are subsidizing these tests to a small extent.
Tests are simplified for a non-professional to perform and have a control built in to assure accurate performance.
These tests will help us isolate ourselves more quickly if we feel sick or a negative test will help us feel good after a potential exposure or before visiting an elderly or immunosuppressed relative.
All this will help us contain the virus from spreading.
There are two types of tests:
• Molecular test: For COVID-19 diagnosis, this is basically a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. It is a genetic test and it can detect even small fragments of the COVID-19 virus genetic material in the sample. This is the most accurate and is the gold standard by which other tests are compared for accuracy. This test is too sophisticated to be done at home, but many companies are supplying kits where you can take a sample at home, put it in the proper place and mail the sample in a pre-paid envelope. Results are available by mail or fax or test within 24-48 hours.
•Antigen test: This is new and exciting. Kits by several companies will be available to do the test at home and get the result in 10-15 minutes. These tests detect viral antigen, a protein fragment of the COVID-19 virus. A larger load of virus (antigen) in the swab assures accuracy of the test, so in asymptomatic situations or just after exposure when viral load may be low, the test may give a false negative result, hence a series of tests are necessary.
All tests are approved for 18 years and above, and most of them for 2 years and above.
Many similar tests have been in use for several years and used successfully in outpatient clinics and hospital labs for diagnosis of Strep, RSV, flu, etc., and to medical personnel performing these tests daily, the manufacturers’ names and reputation are well-known.
The following are a few reputable tests and companies behind them:
-Illume by Illumina
-Binax Now by Abbott
-Quick Vue by Quidel
-Pixel by Lab Corp.
Many are available in packages of anywhere from two to 45. A package of two tests is required to do “series” of tests. If the first test is negative closely after exposure, another test in two to five days is recommended by the CDC. A larger package may be needed for different circumstances like testing the whole family, or a small business may need to test many employees at the same time or by schedule.
There is some sacrifice for accuracy for privacy and quickness of results.
The result can be seen as negative with a blank or no red line in the “test” section as well as control being red line for proper performance.
A positive test will show a red line in the “test” section.
Some tests work in sync with an app on a smartphone, so make sure of their compatibility with your phone before buying.
A new necessity in our lives is born.
A.K. KHANNA, M.D., is a pediatrics specialist in Ashland.