Antigen tests offer a rapid response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
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What Is Antigen Testing?
Antigen-based tests detect specific proteins on the virus. They're more commonly known as rapid tests, as they typically provide results in under an hour. In general, antigen tests are used by a health care professional or trained operator at point-of-care, but lab-based antigen tests are also available. Some technologies require the use of a portable digital reader, while others use an optical readout and format similar to a disposable pregnancy test.
How Antigent Tests Work
These types of tests are relatively new and are still being investigated, and their performance characteristics are not yet fully understood. In the early stages of the viral infection levels of the virus are sufficiently above the detection limit for most antigen tests for the first 4 days of symptoms. After this time frame, the ability for these rapid tests to detect the virus diminishes.
We currently have no evidence that variants affect the ability of diagnostic tests approved by Health Canada to confirm COVID-19 cases. We are working with other regulators and manufacturers of COVID-19 test devices to assess the impact of variants. If there's an issue, we will act quickly and keep you informed.
The Importance of Antigen Tests
Antigen tests may further strengthen the public health response to the increase in COVID-19 cases, by expanding access to testing outside of laboratories. Here are some of the ways these types of tests can help the public combat the spread.
- Faster turnaround time
- A lower per-test cost
- The ability for non-professionals to perform the test
This test can quickly identified people with COVID-19, informing infection prevention and control measures, thus preventing spread. In this case, and where rapid test turnaround time is critical, there is value in providing immediate results with antigen tests, even though they may have lower sensitivity than other types of tests.
When Should Someone Get Tested?
Your healthcare provider may recommend testing for COVID-19 if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
- New loss of taste or smell
It is important to remember that not every patient will show symptoms. So if you've been exposed to someone who is showing symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19 you should reach out to your local testing facility.