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Accuracy Of COVID Tests, Numbers Raises Concern

A BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, one of the two new rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
A BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, an at-home COVID-19 test.

With close to 2,000 new COVID-19 cases in the state Monday, state officials are concerned that the real number of total cases is higher.

Gov. Jim Justice and coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh said during Monday’s COVID-19 briefing that the state may be undercounting the real number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Both mentioned the prevalence of home testing as the reason.

Marsh said it is possible to have COVID-19, but have a negative result on an at-home test, and therefore advised West Virginians to seek out the more robust PCR tests.

“Although these rapid tests are really very good, they're not absolutely 100 percent sensitive and specific for people who might have COVID,” he said. “We very much suggest for people who have symptoms that could be consistent with COVID, even if you have negative rapid tests, consider going and getting a PCR test, a genetic test.”

PCR tests are more accurate because they amplify genetic material so that even a small amount of coronavirus genes in the patient’s sample can be detected.

Antigen tests, as the name implies, test for antigens which are the portion of the virus that the immune system recognizes to create antibodies.

West Virginia ended its public testing program at the end of June, but Marsh said PCR tests are still available at pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and county health departments.

Marsh emphasized the importance of accurate testing given the fast onset and high infection rate of the omicron variants of COVID-19.

“We know that for this particular type-form of COVID-19, the symptoms come on much faster, and people are infectious much faster, as few as two to three days people can be infectious,” Marsh said. “So be cognizant, even if you do have even symptoms of sinus etc., please go ahead and test yourself. And if you are negative by rapid tests and those symptoms continue to get worse, please go get a PCR test.”

North Central/Morgantown Reporter, cschulz@wvpublic.org, 304-284-1497, @SchulzReports

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