Types of Test • When Do I Need a COVID-19 Test? • How Do Rapid (at-Home) Tests Work? • Where to Get a Rapid Test • Types of Rapid Tests
• Rapid Test Results
Types of Test
Testing can determine if you have COVID-19. This is an important step to help reduce the spread of the virus.
There are two types of tests available:
PCR tests and
PCR tests are conducted by trained health care providers who take a nasal swab. Results are generally analyzed in a lab.
PCR tests provide more accurate results than rapid tests because they use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify the viral genetic material of COVID-19.
Test result return times vary across BC but generally take one to three days.
Rapid tests (called rapid antigen tests) also involve collecting a nasal swab.
Rapid tests can be conducted at home and provide quick results – generally within 15 minutes.
When taken while someone is at the peak of their infection, rapid antigen tests generally provide accurate results as this is when virus levels in the body are the highest.
That's why these tests are only being used in BC for individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms.
Some First Nations communities have access to another type of rapid test that provides results of similar quality to lab-based tests for people with COVID-19 symptoms. Trained health care providers administer these tests using equipment such as GeneXpert, ID NOW Analyzer and others. This equipment is different from the equipment used for the at-home rapid tests.
When Do I Need a COVID-19 Test?
Testing is a priority for Indigenous people in BC with symptoms of COVID-19 and who are pregnant or may benefit from treatment. Indigenous people who are unvaccinated, aged 50+ with two or fewer doses of vaccine, or aged 70+ may benefit from COVID-19 treatment.
If you feel unsure about your symptoms:
If you find it hard to breathe, have chest pain, cannot drink anything, feel very sick, or feel confused, contact your health care provider right away or go to your local emergency department or call 9-1-1.
People older than 55 or who are at greater risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 should get tested by a health care practitioner if that option is available within 24 to 72 hours of the onset of symptoms. If that option is not available, use a rapid (at-home) test.
Children have similar but milder symptoms to adults.
You should continue to seek care for other medical conditions as needed, even when they are not related to COVID-19.
At-home rapid tests (often called rapid antigen tests) can be used to determine if you have COVID-19 when you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
Rapid tests are done by using a swab to collect a sample from each nostril. The swab will only go a few centimeters inside your nose. It should not hurt.
Rapid tests check for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus. Rapid tests are very good at detecting the COVID-19 virus when testing is done between three to five days after the start of symptoms. This is generally when virus levels in the body are at the highest.
If you test during the first three days after your symptoms appear there is an increased risk of false negatives. A false negative is a negative test result found in a person who is actually infected (positive) with COVID-19. False negatives occur when there isn’t enough virus in your body for the rapid antigen test to detect.
Rapid tests are not used for asymptomatic screening because they do not reliably detect infections in people who do not have cold or flu-like symptoms.
Remember: Seek medical care if you feel you need it, whether you test positive or negative.
The FNHA is working with provincial and community partners to distribute rapid test kits in First Nations communities. Check with your local health centre to ask about supplies.
There are now more than 1,000 community pharmacies in BC distributing the rapid antigen BTNX test kits free of charge to people aged 60 and over. If eligible, you can request a kit containing five tests once every 28 days.
The FNHA is distributing three brands of rapid COVID-19 tests initially: Lucira, BTNX and Artron. Each kit comes with written instructions. Video demos and instructions are also available from FNHA, BCCDC and the manufacturers:
Regional Health Authorities and other organizations that serve First Nations people may be distributing different brands of test kits.
Find out what the rapid test results mean at the BC Centre for Disease Control rapid testing page here.
Visit the BC's provincial COVID-19 vaccination website to register for a vaccination and get up-to-date information and help.
Contact your primary care provider or local public health office
or call 8 - 1 - 1. (Take a self-assessment.)