Why Do Some Patients Need a COVID-19 Test?

Testing for COVID-19 has been a strategy used to track the spread of the virus and control the severity of the cases themselves. Some patients are more likely to benefit from COVID-19 testing than others, depending on several factors. Continue reading for everything you need to know about COVID testing.

What is the COVID-19 Test?

There are two types of testing related to the current coronavirus outbreak: viral/diagnostic and antibody. The diagnostic test looks for the presence of the coronavirus in a sample from the patient. The test will reveal if the patient is currently infected with the COVID-19 virus. 

An antibody test will show whether the patient has been previously infected by the virus. If there are antibodies present in the sample, the body has already figured out how to attack and kill the virus. A positive antibody test does not mean that the patient can’t become infected with the virus a second time.

Who Should Get a COVID-19 Test?

Anyone who has developed flu-like symptoms should get in touch with their medical provider to set an appointment for a COVID test. As flu season comes into full swing, it can be challenging to know if the symptoms are due to the flu or coronavirus. Testing will help the patient get the best treatment according to which illness they have. A positive test result will let you know if you need to take extra precautions so you don’t spread the virus to others.

In some places where testing kits are running low, your medical provider may not refer you for testing if your symptoms are not severe. In these areas, priority for testing will often go to specific populations:

  • First responders and law enforcement
  • Medical workers, including those that work in nursing homes, care facilities, and hospitals
  • People living in long-term shared accommodation, like shelters, prisons, and care homes.
  • People who have been hospitalized with symptoms.

Several health experts agree that ideally, everyone should get tested, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not, in order to control the spread of the virus. However, this simply isn’t practical when testing is in short supply. Often, though, employees working with high-risk individuals may be routinely tested to ensure safety.

Should I Get a Test? People with underlying conditions like obesity, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease are at a higher risk of a more severe case of infection. Understanding your risk factors will help you make the best decision regarding testing. If you are having new symptoms like fever, cough, congestion, or body aches, you should call your medical provider or urgent care center to see if a COVID-19 test is right for you.