Governments all over the world are fighting to somehow control and slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus disease. The testing of people is a central factor in all these efforts. There are certain laboratory tests that are capable of identifying the virus that causes COVID-19 in specimens taken from the respiratory system of suspected carriers of the virus. Not everyone needs to be tested for the COVID-9 virus. Let’s take a look at who should be tested for the coronavirus disease.
Who Should Be Tested For The Coronavirus Disease?
At present, there are only two major reasons for someone to be tested for the coronavirus disease. These include:
- If a person is having symptoms of the coronavirus disease
- If a person has been exposed to an infected person
The main symptoms of the COVID-19 disease are dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath. Since these symptoms are very similar to the common cold and the flu, doctors carry out coronavirus testing to determine if the person is COVID-19 positive.
In the beginning, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that only people with symptoms and who have been potentially exposed to the virus would be tested.(1) However, it was found that many people who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus around the world had no obvious exposure source.
Researchers then suggested that the virus was getting transmitted locally in many countries, meaning that it had started spreading from person to person more easily. At the same time, many people who were not experiencing any symptoms were also transmitting the virus.(2)
Following this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes its guidelines to allow anyone with symptoms similar to the COVID-19 infection to get tested, but only if a doctor approves the request.(3)
A doctor’s request is necessary because there is a limited number of these tests available. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages doctors to reduce any unnecessary testing and to take into account a patient’s exposure to the virus before ordering the test.(3)
One of the biggest benefits of testing is that it lets doctors and nurses have a clearer picture of just how many cases are there of COVID-19 and how the virus is spreading through the population.(4)
How is Testing for Coronavirus Disease Done?
Testing for the COVID-19 virus is easy and can be done anywhere. The test is typically done by taking a swab from deep in the patient’s nasal cavity to collect some cells from the back of their nose.(5)
The sample is then sent to a laboratory where it is tested to check if the cells are infected with the virus. This same process is also used to collect samples from a patient who is tested for the flu.(6)
It takes 24 to 72 hours to get the results of the test, though many laboratories and companies are developing more advanced tests that can give the results faster.(7)
Conclusion: Why Is Everyone Not Tested?
While it may seem like the obvious choice to test everyone, but realistically this is not feasible, especially given the low amount of tests available at present. This is why most doctors are prioritizing the testing of people who need it urgently, such as those who are at high risk of developing the virus. This includes healthcare workers, symptomatic patients in areas where infection rates are high, and older adults who are 65 years or older, which chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease.
It is possible that as more tests become available, doctors will start testing more people to diagnose more cases before the disease can be transmitted any further.
At the same time, research is also ongoing to develop faster tests that do not require any specialized personnel and equipment. Testing will allow medical experts not just to diagnose the disease quickly and quarantine an infected person, but it will also help them better understand how the pandemic is progressing. Mass testing will eventually help experts predict the impact of the virus on society.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
- Outbreak Observatory. 2020. An Overview Of US SARS-Cov-2 Testing And Surveillance — Outbreak Observatory. [online] Available at: <https://www.outbreakobservatory.org/outbreakthursday-1/3/5/2020/an-overview-of-us-sars-cov-2-testing-and-surveillance> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/lab/guidelines-clinical-specimens.html> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
- Labtestsonline.org. 2020. Influenza Tests | Lab Tests Online. [online] Available at: <https://labtestsonline.org/tests/influenza-tests> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
- The Scientist Magazine®. 2020. How SARS-Cov-2 Tests Work And What’S Next In COVID-19 Diagnostics. [online] Available at: <https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/how-sars-cov-2-tests-work-and-whats-next-in-covid-19-diagnostics-67210> [Accessed 16 April 2020].
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