The coronavirus pandemic has generated waves and waves of mind-numbing statistics, a whole lot of uncertainty and advice that lasted only a little longer than a gallon of milk. Remember being told to not bring mail in the house, and that you had to wash your groceries in vinegar?
An area of stability, certainty and progress during this pandemic has come from testing.
There are two main options in testing:
- diagnostic, commonly referred to as viral or molecular testing, which shows if a person has an active infection;
- antibody, which shows if you have had a previous infection by detectsing the presence of antibodies specific to COVID-19.
These tests are effective but have an “ewwww” hurdle.
Viral/molecular tests require the insertion of a 6-inch long swab into the back of the nasal passage through one nostril. The swab is rotated for 15 seconds and then repeated on the other side. Results generally take a few days.
Antibody/serological need a blood sample. A finger stick usually is enough, but from a young age many people acquire a fear of needles. If you are OK with it, results are available on site.
A recent breakthough has been the approval of a saliva test. It is a diagnostic/molecular test like the nasal swab. Both the nasal swab and the saliva test use a process called RT-PCR (real time-polymerse chain reaction for you scientists) – considered to be the gold standard. Results reveal if you have the infection at the time of the test.
Using saliva eliminates the squeamishness that some would feel with nasal or throat-swabbing methods.
Results are still fast: People will get their results within 24-48 hours of the sample arriving at the lab.
Qualifying for the saliva test is based on your risk, location, symptoms, potential exposure and other factors.
There is no fear pitch here: Statistically, the coronavirus will not kill you or even make you severely ill, although individuals with risk factors such as advanced age or underlying immune issues must obviously be more careful. Managing your risk and being tested as needed is a good citizen thing to do.
It’s like pulling over for an ambulance. We’re helping out someone else – we don’t even know who that person is – and we don’t question doing it.
Please don’t be the reason someone weaker than you has to fight this battle.