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K-State Today

November 17, 2020

What COVID-19 test is right for me?

Submitted by Lafene Health Center

Testing is an important part of understanding and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Lafene Health Center offers several different types of COVID-19 tests. If you have questions about testing or would like to schedule a test, contact Lafene Health Center at 785-532-6544 or schedule through the myLafene+ patient portal.

Currently, there are three types of COVID-19 tests: two diagnostic tests — PCR and rapid/antigen — that look for active coronavirus infection in your mucus or saliva, and one blood test that hunts for antibodies, or evidence that your immune system has encountered the infection before. The right test depends on the goal, such as confirming an active COVID-19 infection; identifying asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals who might be shedding the virus; or determining if someone previously had COVID.

Here is more information about the types of COVID-19 tests.

  • Molecular test or PCR test.
    • This test is collected through a nasal or throat swab.
    • The result time depends on lab capacity. Some locations may receive results on the same day, but the average turnaround time is two to three business days.
    • This test is highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated. A PCR test may be used if you or your primary care provider think you have COVID-19; if you are a close contact; or if you need to prove to your employer or college that you do not have an active COVID-19 infection. This test also is performed in routine asymptomatic screening.
  • Antigen or rapid test.
    • This test is collected through a nasal or throat swab.
    • The results are ready within 20-30 minutes.
    • Positive results from the rapid test are highly accurate. However, negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test for those who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. The false-negative rate of this test is high.
    • The rapid test is typically reserved for use with patients who are exhibiting some symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Lafene Health Center also uses a rapid PCR test.
      • The results are usually available in 20-30 minutes. It is a more accurate test than an antigen test, but not quite as good as the regular PCR test.
      • It is very effective for symptomatic individuals and is collected using a nasal swab.
      • Lafene Health Center has largely replaced the use of an antigen test with this rapid PCR test in the clinic. This test isn’t universally available outside of Lafene Health Center.
  • Antibody test.
    • This test is collected through a finger stick or blood draw to look for signs of a previous infection.
    • The results are often available the same day. It typically takes a week or two after an active infection for your immune system to produce antibodies. Having an antibody test too early can lead to false-negative results.
    • This test is sometimes conducted along with viral testing if an individual seeks care late in the course of their infection.
    • Antibody testing is not able to identify active infection, but it does play a role in the pandemic because it provides information on the prevalence of the virus and the frequency of asymptomatic infection.