Should I take the Covid-19 test?


SARS-Cov-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is a communicable disease. It mainly spreads from an infected person to a healthy through droplets when one sneezes or coughs, or when in close contact with an infected person.

The disease spreads at a faster rate, however is controllable and treatable. The majority of the patients get well under home observation and isolation itself.

However, it is important that one is observant and takes precautionary measures and early diagnosis for swifter and quick recovery.

Taking early care can lower the chances of a serious infection.

Stages of the infection:

According to the ICMR, the incubation period of Covid-19 is in between 2 to 14 days. Symptoms begin to show on an average of 5 to 7 days. That means a person may recover with14 days. While the symptoms may begin to show somewhere between 5 to 7 days of coming in contact with an infected person.

Who should get tested?

According to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, all individuals need not get themselves tested. However, if one observes or develops any covid-19 symptoms, has a travel history to affected places or countries, or has come in close contact with an infected person, they must get themselves tested.

-All symptomatic people with a history of travel in the last 14 days,

  • If one comes in contact with a confirmed case,

-If you are a healthcare worker who examined a confirmed case without adequate protection as per WHO recommendations.

  • If you are living in the same household with a confirmed case.
  • If a person was hospitalized with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI) or Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) or severe pneumonia.

When should I get tested?

-When the first wave of coronavirus pandemic hit the nation, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had advised asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of confirmed cases to get tested once between day 5 to day 14 of coming in contact with the infected person.

-Symptomatic patients should get tested as soon as they develop or observe any covid-19 infection and isolate themselves without waiting for the results.

Types of Covid-19 tests

There are different types of tests- antibody tests and antigen tests.

  1. RT-PCR Test:
    Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction is a gold standard test that collects the nasal and throat swabs of patients and uses a vial to detect the presence of virus. The test has high accuracy.

Various open and closed RT-PCR platforms (Open systems RT-PCR machines, TrueNat and CBNAAT) are currently being used for COVID19 diagnosis in India.

RT-PCR test has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research, ICMR for use and diagnosis. Minimum time taken for the test varies between different systems with a minimum of 2-5 hours including the time taken for sample transportation. However, as the cases surge, results can take anywhere between 2 to 3 days.

  1. Rapid Antigen Test:

A rapid antigen test or RAT collects the nasal swab to diagnose a patient. The results come within 1 to 24 hours. ICMR has recommended getting an RT-PCR test done to confirm the result of RAT.

  1. Standard Q COVID-19 Ag detection test:

The test was conducted with an aim to evaluate its sensitivity, specificity, and feasibility of use as a point-of-care test for early detection of SARS-CoV-2.

It is an antigen detection test that is available in India and has been validated.

  1. TrueNat & CBNAAT test:
    TrueNat & CBNAAT tests are mainly used for the detection of HIV and Tuberculosis.

These platforms have a quick turnaround time (30 -60 minutes) but only 1-4 samples can be tested in one run, limiting the maximum numbers that can be tested to 24-48 samples/day only. The viral lysis buffer that comes with the COVID-19 cartridges inactivates the virus and poses a minimum biosafety hazard.

Which test should I take?

-If one wants a more certain test result, they must get the RT-PCR test done. In the RT-PCR test, the virus’s RNA is detected which will be present in the body before the formation of antibodies or symptoms of the disease. It can detect the virus at an early stage.

  • Health Workers can take the rapid antigen test to be sure of their health status before attending to patients.
  • If one has already contacted the virus, they can go to sero blood test to detect the presence of antibodies in their body.