TESTING FOR COVID-19: IN WHICH AREAS IS THE COVID-19 RAPID ANTIGEN TEST USED?
The introduction of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests offers numerous benefits for public health and pandemic management. These rapid antigen tests enable more convenient, affordable, frequent, and faster testing for everyone. However, testing options continue to evolve with the emerging variants, advancements in research, and the changing needs of the people. Therefore, it may be difficult to catch up with the most up-to-date information and navigate between different options of testing. Getting informed on rapid antigen tests can help you better evaluate your choices so that you can find the test most suitable to your needs and preferences. Below, you can find the answers to some of the most asked questions regarding COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, including their areas of use, their types, and where to find them.
Recommended Areas of Use For COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests
Rapid antigen tests can be used for the screening of broad populations in regions of widespread viral transmission where the expected prevalence of disease is high. In such an environment, the sensitivity and specificity of rapid antigen tests suffice to provide efficient infection control by enabling rapid screening for large populations and immediate isolation for positive cases. Rapid antigen tests are also useful for contact tracing and isolation purposes as it provides rapid screening and isolation for contacts and other people at risk.
The risk of getting false positive results with rapid antigen tests is extremely unlikely. Therefore, a positive antigen test result typically does not require confirmatory testing. However, if there is a high risk of a SARS-CoV-2 infection, a negative antigen test result may need to be followed by additional PCR testing or serial antigen testing to rule out the possibility of infection altogether. For instance, if the person is showing COVID-like symptoms such as fever, cough and loss of smell or has had a known or suspected exposure to a person with a SARS-CoV-2 infection, a negative rapid antigen test might require confirmatory testing.
Rapid Antigen Testing in Occupational Places
Rapid antigen tests can be used to facilitate regular screening in targeted settings especially where there is a high risk of occupational exposure, high risk of transmission to people at risk, or where large numbers of people get into close contact. Regular antigen testing can be implemented in workplaces with high-risk of exposure to ensure immediate detection and isolation, reducing the risk of transmission. Similarly, frequent antigen testing can be performed in educational settings such as schools and universities as the method is equally efficient in the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in children, adolescents, and younger adults. In environments such as aged care and long-term care facilities, along with prisons and migration centers, regular antigen testing can help protect more vulnerable groups by reducing the risk of transmission and ensuring timely isolation and access to care. Finally, rapid antigen tests can be used to quickly monitor people prior to attending certain public settings and activities such as concerts, sports events, or meetings to reduce the risk of transmission.
Antigen testing may also be preferred when time is of essence. If achieving immediate results has critical importance for the health of the patient, rapid antigen tests can deliver rapid results and facilitate quick decision-making.
Rapid antigen tests can be used in remote or resource limited areas where molecular tests such as PCR are not immediately available. In such settings, rapid antigen tests can increase accessibility, enable rapid detection, accelerate contact tracing, and facilitate the immediate isolation of positive cases. People who test positive on an antigen test are unlikely to need a confirmatory test, as false-positive results are very rare. If PCR testing is not readily available, serial antigen testing can be used to confirm negative results of an initial antigen test.
Use of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests as Self-Tests
Some COVID-19 rapid antigen tests are deliberately designed for self-administration. When used as self-tests, rapid antigen tests could help break chains of transmission by ensuring the immediate identification and isolation of positive cases. Individuals can use self-tests to quickly check themselves prior to social interactions, events, or travels.
Self-tests may especially be useful for people planning to visit a high-risk setting such as aged care facilities, hospitals, and clinics; or someone at high risk of developing severe disease. Even in the absence of symptoms or a known exposure, people can use self-tests to reassure themselves throughout their daily lives. In the form of self-tests, rapid antigen tests help curb viral transmission, protect vulnerable groups, and reduce overall anxiety by allowing wider populations to test themselves quickly wherever, whenever, and as often as the need arises.
What Are the Types of COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests?
Rapid antigen tests can detect SARS-CoV-2 in a variety of specimen. Rapid antigen tests that use nasal samples typically involve the swabbing the nasal wall of both nostrils. Saliva-based tests require the collection of saliva specimen by spitting tubes or saliva collection devices. Finally, nasopharyngeal tests require a sample from the nasopharynx, which refers to the upper part of the throat behind the nose. As nasopharyngeal tests require more expertise to administer, self-tests do not typically employ this method. Nasal tests and saliva tests are more suitable for self-administration as they are less invasive and easier to apply. To ensure accuracy and safety, these tests should be performed according to the instructions provided within the kit.
Where Can I Get A COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test?
Antigen tests for COVID-19 can be found online or in pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and some retail stores. In US, free rapid antigen test kits can be shipped to your house by the U.S. Postal Service. You can also purchase rapid antigen test kits on stores such as CVS, Walmart, and Target, or buy one online on Amazon. Within the EU, rapid antigen tests are available in many pharmacies, supermarkets, and online. For example, in Germany, rapid antigen tests are offered by stores such as Aldi, Lidl, and Edeka or drugstores such as Rossmann. Moreover, if you are registered in the medical system, many pharmacies and test centers offer low-priced antigen tests. You can purchase these tests without a prescription and use them regardless of your vaccine status or whether you have symptoms. However, there are different regulations in different countries. Please make your own research based on the country you live in.
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