What Kind of Test Does the CDC Recommend for the Coronavirus Disease? 

You may be wondering,’What kind of test does the CDC recommend for the coronavirus disease?’  First, let’s discuss what types of tests are available, such as a COVID-19 antibody test.

Early COVID-19 testing has been limited to people who have symptoms. Testing has only been done through medical facilities, such as your doctor’s office/clinic and public clinics and only for those people who describe their symptoms and pass the screening questions from the medical staff member. If you passed the screening tests that you had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, then you were allowed to be tested. By May 4th, 7.12 million tests were performed across the US. Huge discrepancies in testing across the states is noted. Epicenters such as New York and California have reported huge numbers of people being tested. For example, New York reported testing of 985,911 and California 715,751 people by May 4. The two states who ranked lowest in testing were Montana where 15,007 people have been tested and Wyoming where 10, 226 people have been tested.

Screening and Testing for Current COVID-19 Infection

Testing for a current COVID-19 infection involves the nasal swab test or more recently, a saliva test. The original nasal swab test has been administered by medical staff when a 6” long swab (think Q-tip) is inserted far into the nose, then placed into a sterile test tube and analyzed in a laboratory. Some people found the nasal swab is not painful, but rather uncomfortable. Depending on the test (company who developed the test), the results can take varying lengths of time for results. 

COVID-19 Antibody testing for past COVID-19 Infection 

Testing for previous COVID-19 infection involves the antibody test. This serology (blood) test identifies the antibodies produced by our immune system when an infectious agent like COVID-19 attacks. CDC recommends antibody serology tests be taken two to three weeks after the infection. 

So when a person goes to his physician’s clinic or lab for the COVID-19 blood test, the results will be reported as positive or negative. A positive antibody test means the person had COVID-19 and his body responded by making antibodies. Normally, antibodies help protect a person from a recurrence of that infection if there is a future exposure. A negative antibody test can mean several things: the person has not had the COVID-19, or the person’s immune system was not strong enough to make antibodies OR the test was done too soon and antibodies had not developed yet. 

Antibody serology tests were not available during early pandemic. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves more tests, they will become easier to access. A word of caution, According to Livescience.com, there are over 100 COVID-19 antibody tests available to purchase that have not been FDA approved. That means, the test accuracy has not been verified. The FDA issued a ruling that those companies have 10 business days to apply for authorization and show the accuracy of their antibody test. Anyone who wants to be tested for antibodies would be wise to check with their public health clinic or their doctor’s clinic for antibody testing. 

Where can you be tested for COVID-19? 

Early in the pandemic, only people who had symptoms were allowed to be tested and only then through a medical clinic/office. As the testing becomes more available, public health clinics may do testing. Also at-home testing is becoming available.

Who can perform COVID-19 testing?

Licensed clinical pharmacists can administer the COVID-19 tests. Doctors, nurses, advanced practice practitioners (nurse practitioners and physician assistants), and lab technologists all have the skills to perform the tests. 

Who should be tested? 

Early in the pandemic, only those people who had symptoms were allowed to be tested. As more testing kits are FDA-approved and more produced, this option will be available to anyone who wants to be tested. But we’re not there yet. 

Current CDC recommendations for who should be tested include:

  •  Whether they are at home or a hospital, people with symptoms of fever, cough, being unable to breathe deeply enough to be comfortable, chills which include shaking, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, loss of smell or taste and, GI symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea. 
  • If they develop symptoms, healthcare workers and first responders.
  • People at risk because of living conditions such as those living in long-care facilities, prisons, or shelters. 

Because the COVID-19 is a new virus, there is much that medical experts still do not know. 

As with many aspects of this illness, testing is changing as the scientists and physicians identify the different aspects of the virus. Reputable medical websites such as CDC, WebMD, and Cleveland Clinic provide trustworthy and up-to-date information about COVID-19. We recommend that people use reputable websites rather than internet gossip when dealing with their health, including the COVID-19 pandemic.