What types of tests are available?
Two types of tests are currently available: diagnostic and antibody.
Diagnostic tests, often referred to as molecular or PCR tests, detect whether you are actively infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Mucus samples are collected from a person’s nose or throat. Depending on the testing facility, results may take several days as most must be sent to labs for analysis. These are considered the most reliable tests.
Antigen tests are rapid diagnostic tests that quickly detect the virus. Results are available in minutes, but the tests may not detect all active infections. Positive tests are highly accurate, but there are a higher chance of false negatives compared to other tests. Your doctor may order a molecular diagnostic test if you have symptoms of the disease.
Antibody tests, or serology tests, detect whether you have been previously infected by the virus. A blood test can confirm whether you have antibodies to the coronavirus, which usually develop one to three weeks after infection. Antibodies can help fight off infections, but it is not known whether antibodies to the coronavirus will protect you from getting infected again, or how long they may protect you. A negative test could mean you have an active infection, so follow up with your doctor for guidance.