Coronavirus (COVID-19) Molecular (PCR) FAQs



General FAQs

  • What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

    Coronavirus disease (also called COVID-19) is a serious respiratory illness. It is caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus), one of the most recently discovered types of coronaviruses. It was first identified in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019 and has spread globally, becoming a worldwide pandemic. Those who have this disease may or may not experience symptoms, which range from mild to severe.

  • Who is at high risk of getting very sick?

    Most people have mild symptoms. Severe cases are more likely to occur in older adults ( 65 years of age and older ), as well as pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems, and those with underlying health issues (such as lung disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart conditions, kidney disease or on dialysis , liver disease, cancer, transplant, AIDS , lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis). However, serious disease can also occur in young, healthy adults.

  • Am I at risk of getting COVID-19 ?

    COVID-19 is very contagious. The risk of getting COVID-19 depends on many factors, including where you live, and close contact with people who have symptoms. It is important to to protect yourself from exposure.

  • How does COVID-19 spread?

    COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales air, droplets containing the virus go into the air and onto surfaces and objects around them. Other people are exposed to the virus by breathing in these droplets or by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth after touching infected surfaces.

  • How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

    The best way to protect yourself is to avoid situations in which you may be exposed to the virus. Everyday actions can help protect you and prevent the spread of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19.
    - Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    - Restrict any activities outside your home and maintain a safe distance (around 6 feet) between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This includes avoiding crowded areas, shopping malls, religious gatherings, public transportation, etc.
    - Stay home when you are sick, unless you are seeking medical care.
    - Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks).
    - Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
    - Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
    - Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    - Wear simple cloth face coverings in public settings (like grocery stores and pharmacies) where social distancing is difficult, especially in areas where COVID-19 is spreading.

  • What can I do to prevent spreading COVID-19?

    If you believe you may have COVID-19 or test positive for COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the following steps can help prevent the disease from spreading to others:
    - Stay home
    -﹣ Stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home
    -﹣ Restrict any activities outside your home, except for getting medical care
    -﹣ Avoid public areas, including work and school
    -﹣ Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis

    - Cover your nose and mouth
    -﹣ If you are sick, wear a facemask when you are around other people or pets
    -﹣ Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw away used tissues

    - Wash hands
    -﹣ Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    -﹣ Wash your hands especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, or before eating or preparing food
    -﹣ If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
    -﹣ Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and other people with unwashed hands

    - Do not share
    -﹣ Do not share dishes, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets
    -﹣ After using personal items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water

    - Clean and disinfect
    -﹣ Clean high touch surfaces such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables
    -﹣ Clean any surfaces that may come in contact with body fluids, blood, or stool
    -﹣ Use a household cleaning spray or wipes
    -﹣ Immediately remove

    - Immediately remove and wash clothes or bedding that have body fluids, blood, or stool on them

  • When should I seek medical care?

    If you think you have been exposed, it is important to closely monitor for symptoms. Most mild cases of COVID-19 resolve within 2 weeks without treatment. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop severe symptoms, especially if you experience:
    - Severe trouble breathing (such as being unable to talk without gasping for air)
    - Continuous pain or pressure in your chest
    - Feeling confused or having difficulty waking up
    - Blue-colored lips or face
    - Any other emergency signs or symptoms

    If you seek medical attention, be sure to call ahead before visiting the facility. This will help the facility keep other people from possibly getting infected or exposed.
    - Tell any healthcare provider that you may have COVID-19.
    - Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
    - Put on a facemask before you enter any healthcare facility.

  • What is social distancing?

    Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. It includes:

    Social or physical distancing includes:
    - Staying at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people
    - Not gathering in groups
    - Staying out of crowded places and avoiding mass gatherings

    Social distancing is one of the best ways to avoid being exposed and to help slow the spread of the virus. It is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

    Be sure to continue to follow federal, state, and local government guidance regarding social distancing.

  • Should I self-quarantine or self-isolate? How does it work?

    If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19, it is very important to stay home and limit your interaction with others in your household and in public.
    - If you have not been tested but may have been exposed to COVID-19, self-monitoring and self-quarantine is recommended to see if you get sick.
    - If you have tested positive for COVID-19, self-isolation is recommended so that you do not pass the virus to others.

    For more information on self-isolation and self-quarantine click here.

    If you are a healthcare professional, first responder, frontline worker, or critical infrastructure worker and believe you have been directly exposed while at work, you should consult your place of work for specific occupational health guidance about whether to stay home or continue working. You should adhere to recommendations set forth by your employer or the department of health, as they may differ from the CDC’s guidelines.

  • What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?

    Isolation and quarantine are both ways to limit your interaction with others to prevent the spread of disease.
    - Isolation is separating individuals with COVID-19 from people who are not sick. Individuals are separated for a period of time until they are no longer infectious.
    - Quarantine is separating individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t been tested. They are separated for a brief period of time (14 days after possible exposure) to see if they develop symptoms.

    For more information on self-isolation and self-quarantine click here.

    If you are a healthcare professional, first responder, frontline worker, or critical infrastructure worker and believe you have been directly exposed while at work, you should consult your place of work for specific occupational health guidance about whether to stay home or continue working. You should adhere to recommendations set forth by your employer or the department of health, as they may differ from the CDC’s guidelines.

  • When can I stop in-home isolation?

    The decision to discontinue in-home isolation for patients with COVID-19 should be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with your healthcare provider. Follow-up with your healthcare provider to discuss when to stop in-home isolation. See the CDC website for more information.

    If you are a healthcare professional, first responder, frontline worker, or critical infrastructure worker and believe you have been directly exposed while at work, you should consult your place of work for specific occupational health guidance about whether to stay home or continue working. You should adhere to recommendations set forth by your employer or the department of health, as they may differ from the CDC’s guidelines.

  • Can I take a test to see if I can stop isolating?

    There is no test that can tell you when to stop isolating. Check with your primary healthcare provider or local health department to help determine when it’s right to stop isolation. Be sure to continue to follow federal, state, and local government guidance regarding social distancing and isolation.

  • Can someone who has had COVID-19 become infected again?

    At this time, it is not known whether someone who has been infected with COVID-19 can become infected again after recovering.

  • Where can I learn more about COVID-19?


PCR Test FAQs

  • What is a COVID-19 PCR test?

    PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests check for genetic material (viral RNA) produced by the virus. This determines if an individual is actively infected with COVID-19 and can spread it to others.

  • Someone I was around has symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 . Should I get tested?

    You should get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19, are a healthcare worker, or you live or work in a place where people reside, meet, or gather in close proximity. This can include homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, group homes, prisons, detention centers, schools, and workplaces.

    This test may also be helpful for anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 and wants to check to see if they have the virus and can pass it on to others.* This may depend on availability, as the amount of tests are limited.

    If you have any other questions, we recommend that you speak with your primary healthcare provider about testing recommendations to see if testing is right for you at this time.

  • What is a false negative COVID-19 PCR test result ?

    The test can show a negative result even if you are infected with COVID-19. This can happen if:
    - It is too soon for the test to detect the virus.
    - There was a problem with your sample or the test itself.
    No test is 100% accurate at all times.
    - If your results are negative and you’re having symptoms, continue to follow isolation precautions and ask your healthcare provider if you need further testing.
    - If your results are negative and you don’t have any symptoms, continue to monitor for any symptoms up to 14 days after your last possible exposure.

    *Although the possibility is low, a false negative result should be considered if you have had recent exposure to the virus along with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

  • What is a false positive COVID-19 PCR test result?

    This test can show a positive result even if you are not infected with COVID-19. This can happen if there was a problem with your sample or the test itself. These tests have been designed to minimize false positive results. If you are concerned about the accuracy of your results, ask your healthcare provider if you need further testing.

  • What is the difference between an antibody test and a PCR test?

    An antibody test checks to see if you’ve developed IgG antibodies against COVID-19, which occurs after being exposed to the virus. Antibody tests do not show whether a person is currently infected.

    PCR tests check for genetic material (viral RNA) produced by the virus. It determines if you’re currently infected and can spread COVID-19 to others.

  • When would I get a PCR test vs. an antibody test?

    You should get an antibody test to check if you’ve been previously exposed to COVID-19.

    You should get a PCR test if you have symptoms of COVID-19, are a healthcare worker, or you live or work in a place where people reside, meet, or gather in close proximity. This can include homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, group homes, prisons, detention centers, schools, and workplaces.

    A PCR test may also be helpful if you currently have symptoms of COVID-19 or want to check if you have the virus and can pass it on to others.

  • Can antibody tests be used together with PCR tests?

    IgG antibody tests can complement PCR tests by providing information about exposure and how the immune system responds to COVID-19 infections.

  • How are antibody PCR tests performed?

    A PCR test is conducted by inserting a swab into your nose and into the back of your throat. You may also have the option of providing samples of your spit and phlegm from your cough. An antibody test is conducted by collecting a blood sample (such as from a finger prick or needle draw).

COVID-19 PCR Test

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