The current SARS-CoV-2, also known as COVID-19, pandemic has affected almost all countries and individual’s health and livelihoods. In most cases of infection, coronavirus only has mild effects but there are groups of people that are more likely to be negatively affected by severe symptoms and worse outcomes. These individuals include older people or those with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, are more vulnerable. With a total of over 1 million deaths worldwide, testing for COVID-19 is more important now than ever.
Why is testing important?
At the beginning of any disease outbreak, health officials need to start testing as soon as possible. It is important to identify those people that are infected so they can be treated, studied, and quarantined from the general public to help slow or stop the spread. This gives health officials time to prepare a plan before the number of cases escalates to outside of their control. This is especially vital for hospitals and clinics that run the risk of being overwhelmed and unable to provide care for everyone who needs it.
Testing for Active Cases
It is important to keep testing even after the initial outbreak. Testing helps to identify new symptoms, side effects, possible complications of the disease, and changes in disease severity. Being informed is not only important for health officials but for those who are actively infected. Knowing that you have a disease allows you to take preventative measures from spreading it to your loved ones or strangers.
Testing for Past Cases
Testing for active cases of infection is vital, but so is testing people who have had the disease and healed from it. This is because COVID-19 is a new disease and people’s immune systems have never had to deal with this issue before. The immune system is designed to protect itself and heal the body to maintain homeostasis a.k.a. wellbeing. When your body is protecting itself, it creates molecules called antibodies. These disease-specific antibodies show evidence of past exposure and are incredibly important to researchers. Antibodies are like tags; they attach to the specific molecule and tell the body it is either bad or good. Then our white blood cells destroy the bad!
If enough people have had the virus, recover from it, and are then immune it creates “herd immunity” which protects the larger population. Immune people can also perform essential jobs that at-risk communities might not be able to or perform it with less protective equipment. The antibodies that a person makes can also be used to help treat others with the disease with a simple plasma donation.
Methods of Testing
Currently, the two most popular ways of testing people for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, are the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and antibody testing. The PCR test is a mouth and/or nose swab that shows if you actively have the virus. The antibody test looks for disease-specific antibodies and looks to see if you’ve already had coronavirus. Each test has its benefits and serves a different purpose.
Once you schedule an appointment, our nurses come to the comfort of your home to administer the test and then send the results to our partner lab, NKMax Health. Your test results are then sent to the ordering doctor who will contact you within 24-72 hours.
1. Swab / RT-PCR Test
The COVID-19 PCR test is designed to recognize the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus by looking for its genetic material. The RT-PCR test is collected by taking a sample from the mouth or nasal passages. A negative test result indicates that there was no viral RNA found in the respiratory sample and positive test results indicate that you actively have the virus. If that is the case, it is important to take steps to quarantine and limit the spread of infection.
It is important to get a COVID-19 diagnostic test if:
- You present any symptoms such as fever, body fatigue, and aches, chills, shortness of breath, cough, or difficulty waking up.
- You’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- You’ve been traveling through high-risk areas such as airports.
- You’re at risk of difficult complications if you become infected.
Certain groups are at higher risk of catching the virus and it is to their benefit to be tested. This group includes health-care workers, anyone staying in the hospital for an extended period, those that work in elderly care facilities or prisons. This is because these conditions are generally crowded and the population is already at a greater risk than someone staying in their own home.
What Specimen is Required?
To get an accurate collection sample, this test requires a sample of fluids from the upper respiratory system. This can be administered through the nasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal, nasal, or mid-turbinate to get a swab. The nasopharynx is above the roof of your mouth at the base of the skull and can be accessed through the nostrils. The oropharynx is part of the throat after the mouth and includes the back third of the tongue and the tonsils. The mid-turbinate swab is administered along the nasal floor until the stopper hits the nostril. It is repeated on both nostrils for an accurate reading. To schedule your real-time PCR test please schedule a visit online or call our office to set up an appointment with one of our licensed nurses.
2. Antibody Test
The COVID-19 antibody test looks for the presence of disease-specific antibodies in the blood that shows past exposure to SARS-CoV-2. This test is not a good measure for diagnosing active cases of infections. This test is also known as serology testing. A negative test result indicates that there are no antibodies found specific to COVID-19 while a positive result means that there has been past exposure and your body has healed from it.
If you have been exposed in the past your plasma and antibodies could be important to researchers in finding a cure or helping treat active cases. Currently, researchers and scientists are not sure whether the presence of antibodies means that you will be immune in the future or how long immunity lasts but they cannot do research without more data so it is still important to donate.
It is suggested that you perform an antibody test for COVID-19 if:
- You have shown symptoms of coronavirus in the past but were not tested at the time.
- You’re are about to undergo a medical procedure.
- You are interested in donating plasma.
What does the Test Measure?
An antibody test measures antibodies that are created by the immune system as a response to a foreign virus or bacteria. These antibodies help your body fight off infections and can take several weeks to appear in your plasma or blood after recovery. This is why it is not a good measure for diagnosing active cases of COVID-19.
Antibodies are the proteins created by your immune system. This test determines if you have certain types of antibodies related to COVID. These are called binding antibodies and neutralizing antibodies. These antibodies levels are measured through a test called ELISA, or serological enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
What Specimen is Required?
The ELISA test measures the specific lgG/lgM antibodies in your bloodstream, so a blood sample is required for this test. Our trained and qualified nurses will draw blood from the comfort of your own home once you schedule your appointment. Antibodies in the blood indicate a previous COVID-19 infection. Antibodies typically develop within 14 days after the onset of symptoms although some individuals previously infected with COVID-19 may not have shown any symptoms but will still have a detectable antibody response.
Testing with Drip IV and NKMax Health
Drip IV and NKMax Health have teamed up to create an easy process for testing current and past infections of COVID-19. A trained and qualified nurse travels to your home or chosen location and administered the swab testing for active cases or draws blood to test for antibodies. We then safely transfer your samples to NKMax Healths’ labs. It is tested there and the results are sent to the ordering physician. Your results can be obtained within 24-72 hours by contacting your healthcare provider. We also offer discounted rates for companies and groups looking to test together. A valid doctor’s order is required for testing so please contact your physician to begin the process.
The process for testing for COVID-19:
- Complete a test requisition form for both the real-time PCR test and the antibody test. This form must accompany the respiratory swab or blood sample when presented to NKMax for processing. The form can be accessed here.
- Once the form has been filled out, contact Drip IV for a qualified health-care professional to come to the convenience of your own home and administer the test or draw blood, depending on which test you would like.
- The sample is then shipped to NKMax and the results are sent back to your primary health care provider who ordered the test. They will contact you within 24-72 hours with the results and medical advice.
Both the COVID-19 RT-PCR and Antibody tests, performed at NKMax America are authorized by the FDA under Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA.) If you have any questions or concerns please reach out to our team today!