There is a lot of confusion going around COVID-19 and the testing procedure. How to get tested, what is the test all about? Will patients need to supply urine samples or have their blood drawn to be analysed for signs of the new virus? These and a lot more.
If you experience symptoms of Coronavirus, your first step should be to call you primary care provider and talk to them. If they think your symptoms warrant a test, then they’ll advice you with next steps.
Experts say the process, though invasive and uncomfortable, is quite simple and quick, essentially the same as what’s done to test for the flu.
Patients have a swab – think of it as a long Q-tip – inserted through their nose to reach what's known as the nasopharyngeal region, from where cells are collected.
“If you were to open your mouth and say ‘Ahh’ and look straight back, that’s the region, right where the respiratory (tract) meets the back of your mouth,’’ said Kirsten Hokeness, an immunology expert who teaches at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island.
If the patient is calm, the swabbing takes a mere 10 seconds or so and is not painful. A jittery patient can make things more difficult.
Once the sample is taken, it is put into a sterile container and sent to a lab, where a chemical is used to pull the cells off the swab and turn the sample into a liquid form. That liquid is then put into a machine that goes through hot and cold cycles to make multiple copies of the virus’ ribonucleic acid (RNA), which carries genetic information. The machine looks to match the person’s RNA with the coronavirus RNA to determine a positive or negative result.
Patients who continue to have symptoms after a negative test are advised to get retested.
If you’re just getting the COVID-19 test, it’s usually one swab, or sometimes they take one nose swab and one throat swab and put them both in the same vial for testing. Generally, when people have the symptoms, they’ll be getting tested both for the COVID-19 but also for the flu and the other viruses that are still prevalent.
Earlier it was taking around 3-4 days but now they are speeding up the process and it takes around 24-48 hours.
The number of options for getting swabbed has increased with the heightened concern about the illness, although it varies by region. Some cities are setting up drive-throughs in community venues and even outside some stores to make testing more accessible.