Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests use nasal swabbing to detect the genetic material in coronavirus. If it comes back positive, that means you have Covid-19, and health officials will most likely send your results to the local health unit. A negative result indicates that the patient is all-clear.
PCR Tests For Covid-19
A PCR test detects the genetic information of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. It does this by amplifying the virus’ RNA to a level where it’s large enough to study. Detecting this antigen before the body forms antibodies allows the test to tell whether a person is infected even in the early stages.
How Does PCR Testing Work?
PCR tests for Covid-19 follow three simple steps; collecting a sample, extracting it, and testing for the virus.
- Health officials collect samples by inserting a long nasal swab into your nostril and taking the fluid from there. They can also use a shorter swab to reach immediately inside your nose and get a sample. After this, they seal the swab and send it to a laboratory.
- Once the laboratory technologists receive the sample, they use chemicals called reagents to extract its genetic material.
- The extracts go in a tube with other reagents, which then goes in the PCR machine, called a thermal cycler. The machine works to make millions of viral RNA’s copies. During this amplification process, one of the reagents produces a fluorescent light that the PCR machine interprets as positive.
What To Expect
You should receive your PCR test results within 24 hours. The period can extend to several days, depending on the number of samples in the testing queue and how long the sample takes to get to the lab.
- Positive test results
When your result comes back as positive, that means you currently have an active SARS-CoV-2 infection. You’ll need to take the necessary measures to avoid spreading the virus to others. These include self-isolating until your symptoms improve and seeking medical care.
If your symptoms become severe or an underlying health condition reduces your ability to fight the disease; your doctor may extend your isolation period. And if you don’t develop any symptoms even after testing positive, isolate for ten days.
- Negative test results
Negative PCR test results mean that you probably don’t have Covid-19. However, it’s important to note that you could still have the SARS-CoV-2 virus, just not enough for the test to detect. As such, make a point of going back for testing two weeks after your results.
Even if you test negative again, you could become infected in the future, so ensure you follow social distancing guidelines. Remember also to wear a face mask and wash your hands with soap regularly.
Finding Where You Can Get Tested
Are you travelling soon? If yes, then make sure you visit a healthcare centre and get tested. The experts will book an appointment for you when you can have your Covid-19 test taken to know whether you are at any risk. Some airports also provide PCR tests for Covid-19 to all passengers or those travelling to specific destinations.