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Can we trust rapid COVID tests against BA.2? This is what the experts say : NPR


Rapid assessments are efficient in detecting BA.2, however the excessive infectivity of the subvariant means it may soar from individual to individual earlier than a constructive result’s detected.

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Justin Tallis /AFP by way of Getty Images


Rapid assessments are efficient in detecting BA.2, however the excessive infectivity of the subvariant means it may soar from individual to individual earlier than a constructive result’s detected.

Justin Tallis /AFP by way of Getty Images

COVID-19 instances have been slowly ticking up within the U.S., with the omicron BA.2 subvariant now the dominant pressure within the nation. At the identical time, speedy at-home antigen assessments have change into the primary alternative diagnostic software for many individuals who assume they could be contaminated.

While these speedy assessments are helpful in detecting the unfold of COVID-19, the excessive infectivity of BA.2 and issues round self-reporting have given rise to a variety of questions.

Here is what two well being consultants should say.

Rapid antigen assessments work in opposition to BA.2, however there are some caveats

Although we have lengthy identified that speedy assessments have a decrease diploma of accuracy in comparison with the usual PCR check, there is no such thing as a indication they’re any much less efficient at detecting BA.2 than earlier variants we have seen.

That stated, speedy assessments may take longer to yield a constructive end result, in response to Dr. Celine Gounder, a senior fellow and editor-at-large for public well being at Kaiser Health News.

“There’s usually a day or two delay between when you might test positive on a PCR versus when you might test positive on one of these at-home rapid antigen tests,” Gounder stated. “But they do work to pick up an infection, and they should be used frequently.”

However, given the upper infectivity of BA.2, there’s a likelihood that the virus may infect others earlier than a constructive result’s seen on a speedy check, in response to Dr. Wilbur Lam, a doctor and biomedical engineer who works with the federal authorities in assessing COVID-19 diagnostic assessments.

“One aspect about omicron [including the BA.2 subvariant] is biologically, it likely is more infective than the other previous variants,” Lam stated. “So the test might not even have time to pick it up before it jumps from one person to another person.”

Nevertheless, speedy antigen assessments have the benefit of being broadly out there and delivering a end result inside minutes, he stated. The key to utilizing them successfully in opposition to BA.2 is to check early and ceaselessly.

“Because these things are more available than PCR testing, each person, if they’re able to get hold of them, can test themselves serially,” Lam stated, including that folks ought to check a number of days after the onset of signs.

“That serial testing does end up mitigating the drawbacks of at least the accuracy of these types of tests compared to PCR tests.”

Have some signs however check is destructive? Context is vital

Some folks might discover they’ve signs per a COVID-19 an infection, however they’re nonetheless testing destructive on speedy assessments. If you end up in a scenario like this, Lam says context is vital for figuring out what to do subsequent.

Experts say you must nonetheless be aware of those that are immunocompromised.

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Patrick T. Fallon /AFP by way of Getty Images


Experts say you must nonetheless be aware of those that are immunocompromised.

Patrick T. Fallon /AFP by way of Getty Images

If you proceed to check destructive, he stated you could be tremendous to hold on together with your every day life, so long as you are not planning on being round people who find themselves immunocompromised.

However, for those who plan on being round people who find themselves at greater danger of extreme sickness, you must take into account taking further precautions for his or her sake.

“[If] you’re going to visit, for example, an elderly family member who is immunocompromised due to cancer and chemotherapy, that’s when I would say take some extra precautions, even if you’re negative,” Lam stated. “So continue to mask, test again, maybe get a PCR test.”

If folks aren’t reporting the outcomes from their speedy assessments, can we belief the info?

While at-home assessments make it simpler for folks to detect a COVID an infection, the present information won’t replicate precise an infection charges if there’s a lack of self-reporting.

“This is an important question that the governmental, medical and public health communities are just now scratching the surface of,” Lam stated. “In fact, the current BA.2 case numbers may be underestimating the true numbers because a significant number of positive cases are self-detected and unreported.”

And whereas some speedy assessments supply smartphone apps to assist folks self-report a constructive end result, there is no requirement to take action.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages folks to report any constructive outcomes to their well being care suppliers, who can be certain they obtain the suitable medical care. That may embody particular remedies if mandatory.

According to the CDC: “The public health community, including CDC, is confident that situational awareness remains strong without receiving self-test results.”

New assessments work greatest. But expired assessments may nonetheless work for a time

Currently, each family within the U.S. is ready to order two units of 4 free at-home assessments by covid.gov. However, these assessments do not final without end and extra assessments should not free.

Both Gounder and Lam say it is best to comply with the producer’s advised expiration date. However, in case you have an outdated speedy check available, they are saying it might be helpful for a time, though there isn’t any consensus on precisely how lengthy.

“The rapid tests are fundamentally biological and biochemical in nature and bear some similarities to food products, at least as far as the expiration date is concerned,” Lam stated. “Therefore, a test will not go ‘bad’ immediately after the expiration date but will gradually degrade over time.”

Gounder suggests storing assessments so as of expiration date so that you’re utilizing the oldest ones first.



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