COVID-19 testing, diagnosis & treatment
Table of Contents
It's important that everyone follow these preventative measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- Clean your hands often
- Avoid touching your face
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Keep away from crowded areas if COVID-19 is spreading in your area
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or inside your elbow (wash afterwards)
- Wear a facemask if you are sick, or if your healthcare team says you should
- Clean and disinfect when you can
Please note that if you are on dialysis, you should not miss your treatments. Contact your clinic if you feel sick or have any questions or concerns.
Find more information on COVID-19 prevention at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Can I get COVID-19 twice?
Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme
According to the CDC, the immune response to COVID-19 infection is not yet understood. It is believed, in the short-term, that people who recover from COVID-19 are unlikely to be reinfected with the virus. However, the length of time that someone may be immune is uncertain.
In a recent statement, WHO officials have reported there is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. In addition, no study has evaluated whether the presence of COVID-19 antibodies confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.
COVID-19 testing accuracy
There is also some concern regarding the test for COVID-19 antibodies. A negative test result means that there were no detectable antibodies found in the specimen. However, not all people with confirmed COVID-19 infection have antibodies above the detectable level. The sensitivity of the test to detect virus antibodies determines the accuracy of the results. There have been reports of false positive results, leading people to think they have some measure of protection, when in fact, they do not.
Should I get tested?
If you are older or have a medical condition such as kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease; you may be at higher risk for severe illness.
Call your healthcare provider early, even if your symptoms are mild. Your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to be tested. More about testing on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Viral and antibody test types
There are two kinds of tests that are available for COVID-19: viral and antibody.
A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. Viral tests check samples from your respiratory system (such as swabs of the inside of the nose) to tell you if you currently have an infection with COVID-19.
An antibody test tells you if you had a previous infection. A positive test result shows you have antibodies that likely resulted from an infection with COVID-19. An antibody test may not be able to show if you have a current infection, because it can take 1-3 weeks after infection to make antibodies. Experience with other viruses indicates that antibodies may offer protection from future infections. However, research is ongoing to determine if having antibodies to COVID-19 can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.
A positive test result means that you have a current COVID-19 infection.
If you test negative for COVID-19 by a viral test, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. However, that does not mean you will not get sick. The test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing.
A positive test result shows you have antibodies that likely resulted from an infection with COVID-19. It’s unclear if those antibodies can provide protection (immunity) against getting infected again. Research is ongoing to find out if antibodies make people immune to the virus.
If you test negative for COVID-19 antibodies, you probably did not have a previous infection that has gotten better. However, you could have a current infection. It’s possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently, since antibodies don’t show up for 1 to 3 weeks after infection. This means you could still spread the virus.
The following CDC website has more information for interpreting COVID-19 test results.