Everything You Should Know About COVID-19 Testing in Pasadena
As unpleasant as it is to say, COVID-19 is clearly here to stay for the foreseeable future. Efforts in 2020 to contain the virus failed, and now that new evolutionary variants are continuing to appear, we’re going to be dealing with it for a long time to come – potentially years.
This makes it all the more important for people to receive COVID-19 testing in Pasadena if they learn they’ve been in contact with an infected person or are experiencing COVID-like symptoms. But how does COVID-19 testing work, and how accurate is it? Let’s talk about the current state of testing science.
How COVID-19 Testing Works
1. Testing for current infections
There are tests both to see if you currently have an infection, as well as tests looking for signs of a past infection. Let’s start with current infection testing.
There are two different types of tests: Molecular tests, and antigen tests.
Molecular Tests are currently considered the more reliable and accurate of the two. These tests involve taking a sample of bodily fluids – usually either saliva or nasal mucus – and examining them for leftover molecular material that can only come from COVID-19 and its variants.
These tests are extremely easy to conduct with a throat swab or nasal swab. There’s even an FDA-approved at-home test where you basically just stick a Q-tip up your nose, twist it around, and then send it off for testing at a lab. Results can theoretically be ready in a few hours, such as if you get the test at a Pasadena urgent care clinic, but it depends on how busy the lab is.
As far as accuracy goes, it’s good, but not perfect. The good news is that the chance of false positives is near zero. However, studies have shown that there’s still around a 10-20% chance of a false negative, especially if you’ve had the disease for several days.
Antigen tests are the other method for testing for current infections. These are also done with either nasal or throat swabs, similar to molecular tests. However, these are looking for specific proteins (called antigens) which are left behind by the virus.
Antigen tests are faster, easier, and less expensive than molecular tests. Unfortunately, they’re also less accurate, with a relatively high number of false negatives. However, repeated testing can balance out the accuracy problems, and this is usually the best option for people in situations where they need to get tested regularly, such as healthcare workers.
2. Testing for past infections
The other type of test you might receive is one specifically looking to see if you’ve ever been infected with COVID-19 in the past. Since a surprisingly high number of infections have no symptoms at all or are so mild that they’re indistinguishable from a simple cold, it’s entirely possible for a person to have contracted COVID-19 without even realizing it.
Antibody tests are the preferred method here. When your body is attacked by a disease, it produces antibodies – defensive molecules – which are ‘tuned’ to fight that disease. These antibodies are distinct. A person won’t have COVID-19 antibodies in their body unless they’ve contracted COVID-19 in the past.
Unfortunately, these tests require testing your blood, so they cannot be performed at home. You’ll have to go to a hospital, doctor’s office, or Pasadena urgent care clinic to have your blood drawn and tested.
Accuracy is a bit tricky to calculate. If a person gets tested in the right timeframe, at least a couple of weeks after having the disease, they can be quite accurate. However, since it’s often impossible to know when, exactly, the infection started, it’s also difficult to time the test for the best results. Also, antibodies in your body decrease over time, so if too much time has passed – like several months – they become harder to detect.
3. A note on accuracy in general
Because COVID-19 is such an unusual virus, and it’s constantly evolving as we try to fight it, determining the true accuracy of COVID-19 tests can be difficult. This is compounded by issues with sample collection and preventing them from becoming contaminated. For this reason, even if the FDA has approved at-home tests, we still recommend people visit an urgent care clinic for direct professional testing if at all possible.
Also, multiple tests can help in all situations. If someone has been tested 2-3 times and it comes back negative every time, chances are very high that they’re genuinely not infected. Single tests can be less reliable.
Receive Affordable COVID-19 Testing in Pasadena
Advanced Urgent Care of Pasadena offers current state-of-the-art COVID-19 tests, in an environment designed to minimize the chances of disease transmission. If you believe you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 in Pasadena, please do not wait. Contact us to arrange for safe and secure COVID-19 testing.