There are several arguments on why COVID-19 rapid test kits should be performed by health care professionals only. In this article, we consider the reasons why self-testing at home is not recommended when it comes to the novel coronavirus. What are the risks for the individual and the community? Before looking at the hazards of self-testing, let's analyze a bit the virus's characteristics.
Key characteristics of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
- SARS-Cov-2 spreads easily, by respiratory droplets, making it extremely simple to catch the disease
- COVID-19 is a zoonosis, meaning that a human got the infection by an animal
- The disease follows an exponential transmission
- Novel coronavirus causes fever, cough, and shortness of breath in most patients
- The disease might lead to life-threatening respiratory and cardiac complications, with dyspnea, cyanosis, and chest pain or pressure
- SARS-Cov-2 has an incubation period from 2 to 14 days
Can every individual perform the test reliably?
Rapid test kits come with an easy-to-understand manual that everybody can read and follow up with the instructions. However, a mistaken interpretation or performance could lead to false-positive or false-negative results. Talking about COVID-19, it is an infection that spreads incredibly rapidly. The hypothetical scenario of a false-negative result could spread the disease exponentially if the person with the false-negative results doesn't isolate themselves immediately. Workplace, family members, and potentially vulnerable populations might be victims of an unreliably performed COVID-19 rapid kit test. Healthcare professionals, such as family doctors, occupational physicians, or company nurses, are the ones ideally competent in performing a self-testing kit for COVID-19, for diagnostic or screening purposes.
Who belongs to the target population?
Is self-testing for everyone? The answer is no. Although some patients that belong to vulnerable populations might find it hard to leave home, others might require urgent medical attention or a clinical examination. Appropriate for self-testing might be individuals working in a company with other employees, and that need to perform screening tests to ensure their colleagues and family are safe. Healthcare professionals are the ones to judge who does and who doesn't belong to the target population. The only thing that is for sure is that a pandemic requires diagnostic speed and accuracy, regardless of the targeted population.
Can every individual evaluate the results reliably?
Knowing how to read and evaluate the results is crucial when performing a rapid test. Getting tested for coronavirus and not knowing what the result means is an unnecessary thing to do. Here's why the role of healthcare professionals is vital. A physician can give the patient information about the stage of their disease, depending on their results and medical history. On top of that, only a healthcare professional can advise a patient correctly on when to get tested.
What about cross-reactivity?
Cross-reaction is a phenomenon that may take place when you do an antibody test. It occurs between antigens when the antibody raised against a specific antigen also shows a high affinity toward another antigen that has a similar structure. When cross-reactivity occurs, the patient might get invalidated or false-positive results. A healthcare professional knows how to avoid cross-reactivity and when the phenomenon is most likely to happen.
Taking the correct measures after a positive result
When getting tested for COVID-19, the response to the results should be immediate, fast, and decisive. Let's say, for example, a patient performs a COVID-19 rapid kit test alone at home, and it turns out they are positive. The time it would take for them to contact their family doctor could be of immense importance regarding the spread of the disease. Also, if a patient tests positive and has symptoms that suggest hospitalization, the doctor is the one to refer them to the appropriate medical sector for isolation and healthcare attention. Other patients might have the criteria to self-isolate at home but present at the hospital out of worrying. Such a patient reaction would spread the disease and put others in danger. The medical doctor is the one that knows what a patient should do in the case of a positive COVID-19 result.
Epidemiology and statistics
Controlling a pandemic requires effective measures and valid numbers. Knowing the exact or the most realistic amount of active COVID-19 cases is crucial in managing pandemics and predicting outcomes based on epidemiological statistics. It is not always sure that a patient will register themselves COVID-19-positive. The healthcare professional knows the guidelines regarding case registration and the importance of having valid numbers of active cases. Epidemiological statistics show whether measures are sufficient or when it is time for stricter ones, improves global outcomes, and prevents negative long-term consequences. Further, the science of epidemiology studies the distribution of diseases and what factors affect their incidence in specific areas in the world. Therefore, it is one of the most important tools during a pandemic.
What is the correct way to get tested for COVID-19 with a rapid test kit
Coronavirus rapid test kits are for medical professional use only. As held above, the presence of a doctor or a nurse is crucial when getting tested for COVID-19. Although it is an easy-to-perform test, the management of the patient after they receive their results should be executed carefully and professionally. Briefly, the following are the reasons why self-testing is not recommended:
- The patient might not perform the test reliably.
- The patient might not belong in the targeted group.
- The patient might not evaluate the results reliably.
- The patient might not know how to interpret a cross-reaction.
- The patient might not know what to do after positive results.
- The patient might not register their positive results for epidemiological purposes.
Assure Tech Fingerstick Fastep® COVID-19 IgG/IgM Antibody Rapid Test Device
Assure Tech Fingerstick Fastep® COVID-19 IgG/IgM Antibody Rapid Test Device is a single-use fingerstick blood test that identifies early and late combined IgG/IgM antibodies of SARS-CoV-2. It is CE Marked and certified for healthcare professional use only, FDA EUA authorized.