If you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, what tests are there for the virus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are two: a viral test and an antibody test.
Who should be tested?
The CDC says people should get a test if they have symptoms of COVID-19, if they’ve been in close contact — meaning within 6 feet of someone who is infected for at least 15 minutes — or if they’ve been told by their doctor to get a test.
You can start with the coronavirus self-checker tool to see if you need to get a test.
Then you can determine what type of test you want.
Once you’ve been tested, it will take time to get the results, but the amount of time differs depending on the type of test, according to the CDC.
There are two viral tests that can detect the virus — a molecular test and an antigen test — according to the Food and Drug Administration.
A molecular test can be either a nasal swab or a throat swab, which are most common but could also be a saliva test. Some testing locations can offer same-day results, but results will most likely take up to a week. The molecular test is accurate and usually doesn’t need a confirmation test, the FDA says.
An antigen test is what is called the rapid diagnostic test and consists of a nasal or throat swab with results coming in an hour or less. A positive test is usually accurate, but negative tests may need confirmation by using a molecular test, according to the FDA.
If you test positive, you may be able to recover at home if your symptoms are mild. But if they get worse or you have questions, the CDC says to contact your doctor.
If you test negative, it could mean you were not infected when the test was conducted, the test could have been conducted too early. If you develop symptoms after the test, you may need a second one to see if you have contracted the virus.
An antibody test will check to see if you have had a past COVID-19 infection. It can take between one and three weeks for your body to create the antibodies.
If you would like an antibody test, first check with your doctor to see if you need one and if there is one available.
If you test positive, it means you may have had the virus that causes COVID-19, but it could also mean that you had a different virus from the same family.
Antibodies could protect you from getting infected with COVID-19, but the CDC says it is not sure how much protection the antibodies will provide or for how long.
Your doctor may need to order a second test to make sure the first was accurate.
You could test positive without ever having symptoms of the illness.
If you test negative, you could have been tested too early and may not have developed the antibodies yet, because some people take longer than others to develop antibodies, the CDC says.
No matter which test you get, there are takeaways for each depending on whether you get a positive or negative result.
The White House has issued the following guidelines: