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UVA doctor discusses new variant detection by at-home COVID-19 tests

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Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 5:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Some people are questioning how accurate at-home tests are as the coronavirus continues to create new variants.

“There’s a lot of COVID being transmitted,” Doctor Amy Mathers with UVA Health said Thursday, June 2.

Dr. Mathers says regardless of the strain, sometimes there is not enough viral load in your nose for an at-home test to immediately detect a COVID-19 infection.

“Testing right now and the at-home tests may seem like they’re not picking up the new variants, but there’s actually not a lot of evidence that that is true,” Mathers said. “The issue is that the at-home tests may take a couple of days to go positive. So it’s seems like they’re not picking up the variants when it’s just taking them a little while to become positive.”

Waiting a few days to see an accurate result is not always doable.

“Unfortunately, they can miss that window when you might even be contagious and positive, and so you can potentially even transmit,” Mathers said.

Dr. Mathers says following the directions of these test can help you work around user error: “They have very specific chemistry and very specific ways that they are designed to be used according exactly to the instructions,” the doctor said.

And just like prescriptions, there is a date to throw these tests out, specified on the box.

“It’s really important to pay attention to the shelf life because actually with some of the at-home tests, and it varies by brand, but once they hit that expiration date they become less and less sensitive. So you could even be more likely to get a false negative,” Dr. Mathers said.

Mathers says masking up is a good idea if you believe you may have gotten a false negative.

Click here for information on PCR testing.

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