Omicron is here. We, once again, find ourselves trying to best navigate our lives amidst a new wave of the pandemic. We are, once again, practicing risk mitigation through social distancing, vaccines, and, most importantly, testing.
If you are the caretaker of an aging loved one, it is imperative to factor testing into your covid risk mitigation care plan. This is because elderly individuals are more likely to be harmed by a covid infection. This means it’s imperative for everyone: home health aides and nursing assistants alike, to be aware of the ins and outs of covid testing.
This article will focus on two specific tests: those being the PCR and rapid antigen.
The rapid antigen test is often self administered and can be purchased over the counter. It’s conducted through utilizing antigens, which are substances that trigger the body to take action through the production of antibodies.
Quick and Easy
One of the benefits of the rapid antigen test is that it’s a fairly self-explanatory test. You don’t need to have a medical background to administer it. Results often can be disseminated within 15 minutes, meaning home health aides can be ‘cleared’ within the same day.
Less Accurate than the PCR
While antigen tests are beneficial in their ease of use, they often aren’t as accurate as the PCR. The test relies on a significant amount of viral substance to be positive. This is great for a symptomatic individual who has large amounts of virus in their sinuses. Yet, for someone who is pre-symptomatic or was just exposed, the viral load is less likely to appear as positive in the antigen test.
The PCR test is conducted by replicating the original sample through a process called polymerase chain reaction. This replicated sample is converted from single stranded RNA into a double stranded DNA. Utilizing polymerase, the DNA is split into one strand and replicated until the original sample is copied nearly a billion times. All copies, and the original, are thus tested for covid.
As you can guess, the PCR allows for much more accuracy than the rapid antigen. The thoroughness is more likely to detect covid in an individual before they become symptomatic.
Time and Accessibility
Although it is thorough, PCR results take longer than the rapid antigen. It takes time to replicate DNA strands, and this means it can take a few days before you get your covid results. Even more so, PCRs cannot be conducted by a home health aide. They need to be collected by a lab and tested by medical professionals.