Coronavirus Updates and Resources

What You Should Know About COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing

Updated on March 24, 2020

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As the number of reported cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to escalate, concerned Americans are desperate to find out whether or not they are infected themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a laboratory test kit to detect COVID-19, but due to the novelty of the virus and high demand for testing, it has been largely inaccessible to the public. There is also a lot of conflicting reports in the media surrounding testing, which makes the overall facts somewhat unclear. 

In an effort to provide some clarity, we’ve gathered some essential details from the CDC regarding the COVID-19 diagnostic test. Here is what you need to know:

What kind of tests are there for coronavirus?

The CDC has developed a test kit that uses an individual’s upper and lower respiratory specimens to detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the virus that causes COVID-19.

How does COVID-19 testing work?  

According to the CDC, here is what you can expect from a common COVID-19 diagnostic test:

  1. Clinician collects two specimens: one using a nasal swab and the other using a throat swab
  2. Specimens are sent to a laboratory to determine if your cells are infected with the virus
  3. Clinician notifies you with your test results (wait time for results is subject to test volume) 

Patients who test positive for COVID-19 receive the appropriate care depending on the severity of their case. This can range from hospitalization for people showing severe symptoms to telemedicine visits and self-quarantine for those with mild cases.

Who should get tested for coronavirus?

The CDC recently released testing guidelines that describe three general classes of patients who seek the COVID-19 diagnostic test. At this time, patients must have a referral from a medical professional to get tested. Those who are getting tested fall into one or more classes:

  1. Hospitalized patients experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms
  2. Symptomatic individuals, including older adults (65 and older) and those with chronic illness
  3. Any individual who has been exposed to an infected individual or traveled to an affected geographic location within 14 days of their symptom onset

According to the CDC, the main symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. If you develop these symptoms, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. Because the symptoms are also associated with the common cold and flu, it is up to them to determine whether testing is necessary for your case. If you believe you have been exposed to an individual with COVID-19, call your health care provider immediately and tell them about your exposure.

Where can I get tested for Coronavirus?

As of March 19, there are currently 91 public health laboratories in the U.S. that have completed verification and are offering COVID-19 testing. These health laboratories are located in all 50 states as well as Washington D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico. If your healthcare provider determines that you need to be tested, they can refer you to a testing location.

Why is coronavirus testing so important?

Testing is crucial to curbing the COVID-19 outbreak because it identifies infected individuals that need to be isolated or quarantined. It also lets public health workers build a more accurate picture of the number of cases in certain areas and how the virus is spreading throughout the population.

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to progress, it is likely there will be new developments with diagnostic testing in the coming weeks.  Be sure to regularly check CDC.gov for the most up-to-date information regarding diagnostic testing.

Our mission at e-Health is to support the health and well-being of individuals and small-business. For additional coronavirus advice, health tips, and information on coverage, please visit eHealth.com

For information and guidelines specific to the coronavirus outbreak, visit cdc.gov

This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

We’ll let you know when we publish anything new.