With wider availability of the PCR test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, here are some answers to common questions.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 is currently the most reliable test for the virus itself. After initial shortages, PCR test kits have become widely available, and results are usually provided within a few days.
Below are commonly asked questions related to testing for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
How does the PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 virus/COVID-19 work?
A sample of mucus is taken from the nose with a cotton swab. The mucus is analyzed with reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technology that can detect the virus if the patient is actively infected.
The sample may be sent to an outside laboratory or tested by the health system’s own laboratory.
Will testing for the coronavirus change my treatment?
If you test positive, you’ll be expected to take precautions, particularly if you are sick or caring for someone. But the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications for patients with COVID-19. Care for yourself at home as you would for any viral illness, including rest and drinking fluids. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about over-the-counter medications that can help with symptoms.
How long does it take to get COVID-19 test results?
Due to national demand, it may take five to 10 days for COVID-19 test results to be available.
I was tested for COVID-19 and am waiting for the results. Should I self-quarantine?
Yes. If you’ve been exposed and need to be tested, you are at high risk for exposing other people to the virus. Once your test result is available, a health care provider will advise you if you need to continue to self-quarantine. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can spread the virus.
If the test is negative, does that mean I don’t have COVID-19?
Not necessarily. If you tested negative, you probably were not infected at the time the sample was taken. The lag in getting results for most tests means it cannot identify someone who has been infected after the sample collection and before the results are known.
No medical test is 100% accurate. The swabs may miss catching a sample of the virus and give a false negative test.
If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or know you have been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19, a health care provider may direct you to self-quarantine for a period of time.
If I test positive for COVID-19, should the rest of my household also get tested?
Not necessarily. It is recommended for your close contacts to self-quarantine for 14 days. If they develop symptoms of COVID-19 they should call their health care provider or schedule an online visit with Norton eCare. They can make an appointment using their MyNortonChart account or sign up for MyNortonChart at NortonHealthcare.com/MyNortonChart. If symptoms become severe or they are having trouble breathing, seek emergency care.