While self-testing for coronavirus infection may be more convenient than visiting a clinic or laboratory, experts warn there is at least one significant disadvantage from a public health perspective.
With a recent surge in demand for self-rapid antigen tests and a growing positive rate, “it seems evident that we are underreporting (Covid-19) cases,” according to Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Positive Covid-19 rapid antigen tests findings performed by medical practitioners are eventually submitted to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there is no obligation that individuals disclose the findings of their self-rapid antigen tests to health care doctors or local public health agencies.
Coronavirus self-rapid antigen tests – also known as home rapid antigen tests or over-the-counter rapid antigen tests – identify active coronavirus infections, not antibodies to the virus, and may be performed simply and swiftly at home or anywhere, regardless of vaccination status, according to the CDC. The majority of self-rapid antigen tests are rapid antigen tests, which are less sensitive than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing performed in clinics or laboratories. While some home testing are PCR-based, rapid antigen tests are much more prevalent and accessible. if you want to learn more about antibodies here is a good link to follow https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2022/01/antibodies-covid-19.html
On December 7, 2021, an Easton, New Hampshire, resident prepares to take a Covid-19 self-test.
Ideally, you should notify both your physician and local health agency of favorable findings for various reasons, Benjamin said. To begin, he continued, if you test positive, your health care physician may need to intervene with medications such as monoclonal antibodies or antivirals to alleviate your symptoms, depending on your Covid-19 vaccination status and overall health.
“Secondly, of course, it assists us in maintaining a more accurate record of our case counts,” Benjamin said. “With all the self-testing, we actually don’t have a good count of cases.”
Notifying your local public health agency of positive test findings assists specialists in determining the prevalence of a new illness in various locations, he noted.
“The presence of sickness is a more accurate predictor than hospitalizations and may assist us in forecasting workforce and staffing requirements for hospitals,” he noted. “If you have a population that hasn’t seen many infections and suddenly sees it spread, you can typically anticipate that two or three weeks from now, they’re going to see an increase in hospitalizations (and) regrettably, death.”
Positive self-test results can also help public health experts better understand how vaccines are responding to the virus – and which activities may pose a higher risk of contracting Covid-19, according to Dr. Jonathan Golob, an assistant professor of internal medicine in the University of Michigan’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
All of these elements, Benjamin said, impact health professionals’ recommendations, including suggestions on safety measures and closures, mask regulations, and how the illness affects unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals differently.
“The most effective method to address all of these key issues about the pandemic that we all have is to report instances of COVID-19 to public health professionals,” Golob said in an email. “The staff at your local public health departments are professionals in analyzing case reports to find answers to these concerns, collaborating with other scientists and physicians to change treatments, advice, and planning in light of the case reports.”
Here are some ways you may assist.
Making telephone calls
If you test positive for coronavirus, Benjamin and Golob suggest notifying your primary care physician through phone or email. While some physicians will submit your findings to the local public health agency, this is not always the case – which is why you should also notify the health department, Benjamin added. Finally, if both you and your physician notify the health department of your positive case, the health agency should have sufficient information to prevent having duplicate data, he noted.
Before contacting medical professionals, Benjamin and Golob advised that you have a few key details handy, including the type of rapid antigen tests you took (rapid or regular antigen or PCR); when you took it; when symptoms began, if applicable; your vaccination status, including which vaccine you received, when your doses were administered, and whether you received a booster shot; any details about over-the-counter medications you used to treat symptoms; and names of people and places you visited.
Certain public health agencies provide self-reporting applications or websites, such as this one for citizens of Ohio. Additionally, certain self-rapid antigen tests, such as the BinaxNOW home exam, provide the option of having qualified telehealth specialists proctor the test and transmit the results to both you and the appropriate public health authorities.
As contact tracing specialists, public health officials may assist you in determining who else needs to know and, in certain situations, in contacting them, Golob added. Your name will not be shared with recent contacts by the public health office. According to the CDC, it will only notify those contacts of their potential or confirmed exposure. Additionally, health department personnel will not request money, social security numbers, banking, credit card, or salary information during contact tracing.
If you wish to notify close contacts, remind them that they may have been exposed to coronavirus since, according to the CDC, a person infected with Covid-19 may begin transmitting the virus 48 hours before developing symptoms or obtaining a positive test result.
“While this does not guarantee that everyone will get unwell, it may assist individuals in following the recommendations for what to do after a near exposure to COVID-19,” Golob added. “If you were in a public area, such as a school or workplace, it’s definitely prudent to include them as well, to assist you in notifying others of the potential exposure.”
When it is beneficial to publish unfavorable results
If you are completely vaccinated and have recently been exposed to someone who has Covid-19, the CDC recommends that you undergo a rapid antigen tests five to seven days after exposure.
If you are not vaccinated and discover that you are in close touch with someone who is, get checked immediately. According to the CDC, exposed and unvaccinated individuals who test negative should be checked again five to seven days following their last exposure or promptly if symptoms occur.
If you test negative – or if your result is invalid but you are worried or suffering symptoms – see your doctor in case they want to visit you in person or order a PCR rapid antigen tests to confirm if you have Covid-19 or another infection, Benjamin said.
“If you have been exposed to COVID, a negative test may be very beneficial – especially three to five days following exposure. A negative test, on the other hand (or, better yet, two negative tests conducted at least 24 hours apart), might convince locations such as work or school that you are less likely to spread the virus to others “Golob communicated by email. “A negative home quick antigen test performed just before a gathering might reassure everyone present that you are not releasing a lot of virus at that point.”