The COVID-19 at-home test offers you an easy way to detect the presence of the contagious infection. It helps you take essential steps without experiencing the hassle of waiting for getting the test or its results. With the pandemic situation becoming worse, not every citizen in a country can get themselves tested for the disease. Most countries give priority to people who face high-risk of infection like medical professionals, pregnant women, and people who show visible symptoms. You cannot blame a country for its inefficiency to test all the citizens as the infection is affecting every country around the world. So, there is a large shortage of diagnostic testing capabilities. While developing countries are still lagging behind the testing, developed countries are trying methods like introducing home testing kits to find and prevent new infections.
One of the different ideas that have cropped up to meet the rising diagnostic demands is the test kits you can use at home. In the USA, there are currently five companies that are selling the test kits you can use at home. These test kits have authorization from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). But, people are skeptical regarding the accuracy of the test results.
Different Types Of Testing Available For COVID-19
You have two main types of testing available to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in your body. They are:
- Viral tests
- Antibody tests
While viral tests check for the current infection, antibody tests detect if you suffered from COVID-19 in the past. Read ahead to know more about each test.
The healthcare teams take the samples from your respiratory system and checks for the presence of viruses. Usually, the technicians take the swabs from the inside of your nose for testing. The results will reveal the presence of SARS-CoV-2 or not. Some viral tests are available within a few hours. Healthcare professionals name the test as point-of-care tests. Other tests some time as you have to wait at least one or two days to know the results. These samples are tested in a sophisticated laboratory for checking the viral presence.
Criteria For Viral Testing
Not everyone needs to undergo testing for COVID-19. Many people (who are healthy) suffer from mild to moderate form of coronavirus infection and recover at home without any medical care. Such people need no testing. People coming under the high-risk category need testing. So, the following need to get a viral test:
- Are older (above 65 years)
- Suffer from underlying health conditions
- Are pregnant
- Have come in contact with an infected person
- Healthcare workers
With no specific treatment available for the infection, it is necessary to prevent the spread of the infection. People coming under the high-risk cases need prompt medical attention to prevent the illness from escalating. So, contact your healthcare provider or local health department to check if you need to undergo testing.
Procedure For Viral Test
During the sample collection, the healthcare provider takes a swab from the inside of your nose or throat. The healthcare team can also take samples of your air passageways through the nose or mouth by using a bronchoscope or by injecting salt water into the nose. The bronchoscope helps collect a sample from the lungs.
It is the test that looks for the presence of antibodies that indicates a past infection. In normal cases, your immune system produces antibodies, the proteins to fight off any infection. So, you develop immunity to the infection. It protects you from the infection in the future. The antibodies produced by your body are disease-specific. So, the specific antibody protects you from the virus causing the infection, but it does not affect another illness.
Depending on when you have suffered from the infection and the time of the test, the results may or may not find antibodies. It is difficult to find antibodies in people who are currently suffering from the infection. So, the test is not used to diagnose COVID-19. For detecting current infection you need to undergo a viral test or check using a COVID-19 at-home test kit.
Authorization Of COVID-19 At-Home Tests
While several test kits are available in the market, you need to use one with authorization from the government. So, people in the USA need to look for COVID-19 t-home test kits authorized by the FDA. Right now, some test kits have obtained the EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) from the FDA. It means that the product is not officially approved by the FDA after undergoing tests, but is allowed to use during the emergency health crisis period. The list of kits are:
- Pixel by LabCorp
- Hims & Hers
While Pixel and EverlyWell obtained the authorization for the test kits developed by them directly, the other companies are selling the kits developed by RUCDR Infinite Biologics in association with Spectrum Solutions as well as Accurate Diagnostic Labs. These kits are offering huge relief to people who cannot go out for the testing. Many people who come under the high-risk category need to avoid public settings as they can catch the virus. So, people fear to go out for testing as it may put the uninfected ones in danger of getting the infection from others who have the virus. So, if possible, you can access the test to check the presence of the virus with ease.
Working Of Covid-19 At-Home Test Kits
Right now, COVID-19 at-home test kits authorized for use are few. But, several ones are under research and testing. So, you can use the following:
- Hims & Hers
- Pixel by LabCorp
You can find more information on the test kits by visiting their official website. Apart from these companies, several others are trying to offer kits you can use at home. Some of the main companies trying for it are:
- Carbon Health
- Scanwell Health
How Does Each COVID-19 At-Home Test Kit Work?
The initial procedure for all the COVID-19 at-home test kits is the same. You need to complete a questionnaire provided or access the online consultation offered by the company to get access to the kits. The company you select will send instructions on how to collect the sample. From here, the procedure varies.
The majority of the companies offering the kits ask their customers to send the sample to a specific laboratory with a prepaid shipping label. Once it is received, the company follows-up with the results. You can access the results and get instructions on the next step you have to take via phone, email, or an app. This procedure is followed by Hims & Hers, Vault, Vitagene, EverlyWell, Pixel by LabCorp, Nurx, and Carbon Health. But, the procedure for Scanwell Health differs as you need to take a blood sample. The customers cannot interpret the test, but they have to take the blood sample testing stick’s picture using the app. Then, the picture is interpreted by the provider after the customer sends it. It is interpreted for results.
Types Of Tests
There are two main types of tests available for detecting COVID-19 at home. They are molecular and serological tests. Molecular tests can detect the novel corona virus’s genetic material in the sample of blood provided. While the serological tests can detect antibodies in the blood. So, you can use Pixel by Labcorp, Vitagene, EverlyWell, Nurx, Hims & Hers, Vault, and Carbon Health to detect the current illness as it uses molecular testing. Another company Scanwell Health offers serological test kits that can detect the prior infection in patients.
COVID-19 At-Home Test Kits: Accuracy Of Testing
How accurate are the COVID-19 at-home test kits? It is the main question you will have in your mind. The foundation of any test used for diagnosing is its accuracy. The test kits available in the USA also have to meet the test validation criteria suggested by the FDA in its EUA policy. FDA clearly states that these kits must accurate results as the false results can have a broad impact on public health. A false negative means an infected person comes in contact with others and spreads the disease. While a false positive means unwanted stress and anxiety. The FDA is working along with LabCorp to check if the data from the sample collection of at-home kits are accurate as well as safe like the collection centers at the hospital, clinics, or other testing sites. Here are the accuracy rates of the kits available to the public:
- EverlyWell established its accuracy by using the data from other studies, which confirmed the stability of the testing sample while shipping.
- The Vault test kits claim high sensitivity. So, the company promises it can detect the presence of novel coronavirus in the blood of a patient with 98% accuracy. So, while testing it offered a correct positive or negative results with only 2% of the test providing an inconclusive result.
- According to another company Vitagene, the testing accuracy is stated on their official website is a specificity of 100% with a sensitivity of 99.9%.
The other two authorized test kits also boast of high accuracy rates. The accuracy information of other non-authorized test kits you can use to check the presence of SARS-CoV-2 at home are not available. Before choosing a test kit, you need to ensure its accuracy. Choosing a kit with less accuracy will do no good. FDA reviews the test accuracy as it one of the many standards checked as a part of the EUA application. The non-FDA approved coronavirus test is currently undergoing the validation to check its accuracy. Its efficiency is tested internally along with the other lab partners across the country. So, may test kits are trying to get the FDA EUA approval for their product. So, you can expect more test kits to try at home in the future.
Can You Access COVID-19 At-Home Test Kits?
People living in the USA can access the five authorized COVID-19 at-home test kits. They can purchase the kits to check if they have or had suffered from the novel coronavirus infection. Before using the test kits, you need to fill out an intake survey. So, the information is used to prioritize the test kits, which give importance to people who come under the high-risk population, are experiencing the symptoms, or suspect virus exposure. But, every state in the USA cannot access the test kits. Read ahead to know more:
- The Pixel test kit offered by the LabCorp is available in all states except New York.
- Test kit offered by the EverlyWell is not available in Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, or New York.
- The Hims & Hers test kit availability varies by different states.
- You cannot find the test kits from the Vault in Alaska.
- You can access the test kits from the Vitagene in all states of the USA.
Alternate Methods To Assess The Presence Of Infection Without COVID-9 At-Home Tests
Not all can undergo the government-sponsored testing or access the COVID-19 at-home test. In most cases, the high cost associated with the testing can pull you back from taking the test. Only in cases that look suspicious, the doctor orders for testing. Highest preference is given to high-risk cases. It is due to the lack of testing kits available. So, how can you assess if you need to take the test or not? You can complete a self-assessment survey and check if you need to talk to your doctor about taking the test or not. You can access the self-assessment guideline provided by the CDC.
Certain portal like HeyDoctor (offered by GoodRx) also connects you to a healthcare provider via a video or phone call. The doctors can review your symptoms virtually and suggest you undergo a test or not. It is the most attractive option available to the patients in the USA as they can access the service free of cost. But, if you feel you need to undergo the test due to your exposure to the virus, then you need to inform your doctor or the health department. You can get tested (albeit with difficulty) to check the presence of the virus in your body.
Using Smartphones For Contact Tracing
In countries like India, the government is urging its citizens to download the Arogya Sethu app, which facilitates contact tracing using the smartphone’s Bluetooth and GPS. Wondering what contact tracing is? It is the method of tracking down the infected people and then finding people who have come in contact with the infected people. The people who have come in primary and secondary contact with the infected person are urged to stay at home until it becomes clear they are not infected. It is usually done physically. But, the lack of medical professionals due to the rapid spread of novel coronavirus infection, many countries have opted for smartphone-based contact tracing.
Insurance Coverage For COVID-9 At-Home Test Kits
LabCorp offered Pixel is available to both uninsured and insured people in the USA. So, you need no upfront payment to purchase the COVID-19 at-home test kit as the company either requests for federal funds or file for reimbursement with the insurance company to cover the cost of the test for the customers. Vitagene, Vault, and EverlyWell right now request people to pay for the test upfront, but they also state that they accept HSA (Health Savings Account) or FSA (Flexible Spending Account) for payment. But, Hims & Hers has provided no information on its acceptance of HSA/FSA. The test kits require upfront payment from the customers. In many countries, the lab test and the associated hospital costs incurred due to COVID-19 is covered by the insurance companies.
Effective Methods To Prevent COVID-19
Instead of worrying about getting the COVID-19 at-home test or its results, you need to take some steps to prevent the infection. These steps can avoid the risk of catching the infection. So, try to follow the guidelines for safeguarding your health:
Ensure Hand Hygiene
It is important to wash your hand often. When you wash your hands, use soap to clean all the dirt and germs. Lather your hands for at least twenty seconds, especially when you have gone out to a public place or after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. When it is impossible to access water and soap, you need to use a hand sanitizer to keep your hands germ-free. Choose a product that contains at least 60% of alcohol. Take some drops in your hands and cover all the surfaces of the hands until it dries. Refrain from touching your nose, mouth, nose, or eyes with your unwashed hands.
Avoid Close Contact With People
You need to maintain a distance of at least six feet distance from others when you go out in public places. It is because, in public settings, you can come in contact with sick or asymptomatic people (with no signs of illness). Coming in close contact can put you at a high risk of getting the infection. So, avoid contact with sick people, even in your home. If you come under the high-risk category of people who are more vulnerable to the infection, then you need to maintain a cautious distance from others.
Use Protective Cover
You need to cover your nose and mouth when you are around other people. It is because you can spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others when you talk, sneeze, or cough. So, opt for a face mask as it can contain the respiratory droplets. Opt for a face mask even when you show no signs of illness. It is because there is a possibility of suffering from the coronavirus infection without showing any visible signs. Follow the instructions suggested below while using the protective cover:
- Opt for a face mask when you go out in public places like grocery stores or other places to pick up necessities.
- Try not to place face masks on young children under two years or who suffer from breathing problems. They can use a face shield. It is not ideal to use the mask when a person is incapacitated, unconscious or is unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Use a face cover even when you have no symptoms as it offers protection to other people. Asymptomatic people can spread the infection to others. So, face masks can prevent such transmission.
- Choose a cloth face mask instead of other masks reserved for health care professionals. Surgical masks and N95 respirators are for frontline healthcare workers who come in close contact with infected people.
- Follow the instructions to use the face mask correctly for effective protection.
Even when you use a face mask, it is important to maintain social distancing. It is important to keep at least six feet distance from others to prevent getting the virus infection.
Cover Your Nose And Mouth
For avoiding the spread of infection, every person needs to use a cloth or protective cover. Always cover your mouth as well as the nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. After using the tissue, throw it in a garbage. If you have no tissues at hand, then use the inside of your elbow to cover your cough and sneeze. Also, never spit in public places. It is important to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. So, either use soap and water to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) to keep the germs off the hands.
Clean And Disinfect
You need to clean and disinfect the high-touch surfaces. So, clean the surfaces that people in your family touch frequently every day. First, clean the surface using a cleaning liquid and then wipe the surface with a disinfectant. Focus on the following areas:
- Light switches
Monitor Your Health
You need to monitor your health for signs of infection. Therefore, you need to become alert and watch for signs like fever, shortness of breath, cough, or other symptoms associated with COVID-19. It is specifically important when you are caring for an infected person, running essential errands, going to a public setting where it becomes difficult to maintain social distancing. Also, check for the temperature to check if you have a fever. Never take temperature within thirty minutes of exercising or after taking medications to lower your body temperature (for example acetaminophen) as it shows false reading. If you observe signs associated with the infection, then take the necessary action without fail.
Right now, getting tested for COVID-19 poses several risks as going to a doctor or a clinic means increasing your risk of getting the infection by coming in contact with others. With doctors recommending people to stay at home, going out for testing can put you in harm’s way. So, COVID-19 at-home test kits can help uncover the virus by sitting at home. But, it will take time for these kits to reach all people across the globe.View Article Sources