Are COVID-19 rapid tests capable of detecting the omicron variant? According to health officials in the United States, early data suggests that they may be less sensitive to detecting it.
Rapid tests can still be used – they are inexpensive and convenient – but people should be mindful of their shortcomings, the FDA said.
FDA officials added that a PCR test is more reliable and should be used by those who have symptoms or have possibly been exposed to the virus.
“The bottom line is the tests still detect COVID-19 whether it is delta or alpha or omicron,” Dr. Emily Volk of the College of American Pathologists reports.
As each new variant has been discovered, the government has ensured that the rapid tests work. For example, a preliminary study by the Food and Drug Administration shows they detect Omicron, but may have reduced sensitivity in finding it. As of late November, the FDA is still studying how the tests perform with the variant.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the FDA wanted to be “totally transparent” by explaining that the sensitivity might come down slightly, but the tests remain essential.
Volk points out that at-home tests are appropriate in many situations. For example, together with vaccination, they can help you feel more comfortable about spending time with family and friends.
The rapid test can indicate whether you caught the virus if you are exposed to someone who had symptoms but did not test positive. Additionally, you can use it if you’re unsure if your runny nose and sore throat are caused by COVID-19.
When considering results, however, keep the context in mind. For example, if you feel sick after visiting a poorly ventilated establishment in a high infection rate area, you should take a negative result from an at-home test with a lot more caution.
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