Which COVID-19 test is best for me?

You could have COVID-19 and not even know it.

When should I get a COVID-19 test?

If you have had close contact exposure to a COVID-19 case or if you are concerned that you may have been exposed, the Department of Health recommends waiting 5 to 7 days after that initial exposure to get a diagnostic test due to the incubation period of the virus, the amount of the virus in your body, and the characteristics of diagnostic tests.

Which test should I get?

It is always best to talk with your health care provider about which test is best for you. Here are the following tests.

Molecular/PCR Tests

A molecular test is usually performed using a technique known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), which works by rapidly making millions to billions of copies of viral-related DNA. If there are even small amounts of this genetic material in the sample, it will be detected. Thus, molecular/PCR tests are very sensitive and they are also very specific. A positive test is almost never wrong in determining that SARS-CoV-2 is present. Tests can be done on samples taken by nasal or throat swabs, and even by saliva.
  • Reasons to get this test: Clearance, Exposure to COVID, Symptomatic
  • Method of collection: Nasopharyngeal swab
  • Test result turn-around: 3-5 days

Antigen Tests

Not for clearances, Not for exposures

The other viral test is an antigen test, which is much simpler and can be done in many doctor’s offices using a nasal swab. An antigen test is fast – providing results in 15 minutes. But there is a catch: It is much
less sensitive than the molecular/PCR test. There needs to be more virus present before the test will turn positive.This means that an antigen test may sometimes be falsely negative, meaning a negative result
cannot always be trusted.
A positive test, suggesting that the virus is present, is usually reliable.

  • Reasons to get this test: Symptomatic patients on premises.
  • Method of collection: Nasal swab
  • Test result turn-around: 15 mins (If negative result: PCR will be sent 3-5 days)

Antibody Tests

An antibody test looks for the body’s response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is a blood draw test that is good at determining if you had the disease, but not good for determining if you have the disease. As such, antibody tests should not be used to diagnose the virus. While there is evidence that antibodies may provide protection from infection, that has not yet been proven and therefore results of
an antibody test should not be used to determine immunity.

  • Reasons to get this test: Knowledge of knowing if you previously had COVID-19
  • Method of collection: Blood draw
  • Test result turn-around: 24-48 hours

For more information; covid19.nj.gov

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