What To Do If You Have A Negative Rapid Test Result But Still Have Symptoms
If your rapid test shows that you dont have the coronavirus but you do have symptoms of COVID-19, its possible that you received a false negative. Its a good idea to confirm your negative result with a more accurate PCR test.
PCR tests are generally more accurate than rapid tests. CT scans are rarely used to diagnose COVID-19. Antigen tests can be used to diagnose past infection.
Getting The Wrong Test Done
Since there are two very different tests, make sure you take the right one. If you think you have coronavirus right now and want to confirm or deny your suspicion, you need a viral test, which will “tell you if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2,” says the CDC.
The other test is an antibody test. Get that if you want to know if you’ve had the virus already. “Antibody blood tests, also called antibody tests, check your blood by looking for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection with the virus,” says the CDC. An antibody test won’t be able to tell you if you currently have COVID-19.
The Rx: Discuss with your doctor or state health department rep whether you feel sick or think you already had coronavirus. They’ll be able to tell you which test you need and if you qualify to get it.
Ts: What Can Be Done To Minimize The Impact Of False Positives
AE: The advice is really very simple. . . . Try and follow the instructions that come with the kit as closely as possible. And the reason I say that is because when we have data to trust the test, that data is always generated when using the test according to the manufacturers instructions. So it may well be possible that you could change the way you do the test, and it would still work fine, but we dont know that.
That sounds kind of boring, to just follow the instructions. . . . But because its a medical test, its actually really, really important that you do follow the instructionsotherwise the system tends to break down.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for brevity.
Don’t Miss: How Much Is Covid Test At Cvs
What Your Employer Can Do With The Information
If your employer takes any kind of test, they must do it in a way that respects your right to privacy. This means that they must collect as little information as possible. And they can share the information only with people who need to know.
If you test positive for COVID-19, your employer should not discipline or fire you because of it. This is because Ontario’s human rights laws say that everyone has the right to:
- be treated equally, and
- not be discriminated against at work because of a disability or serious sickness like COVID-19.
Chances Of A Rapid Test Giving A False Negative
A examined the results of 64 test accuracy studies evaluating commercially produced rapid antigen or molecular tests.
The researchers found that the accuracy of the tests varied considerably. Heres a look at their findings.
Accuracy for people with COVID-19 symptoms
For people with symptoms of COVID-19, the tests correctly gave a positive result an average of 72 percent of the time. The 95 percent confidence intervals were 63.7 to 79 percent, meaning that the researchers were 95 percent confident that the average fell between these two values.
Accuracy for people without COVID-19 symptoms
The researchers found that people without COVID-19 symptoms correctly tested positive in 58.1 percent of rapid tests. The 95 percent confidence intervals were 40.2 to 74.1 percent.
Accuracy during the first week of symptoms versus the second
Rapid tests more accurately provided a positive COVID-19 result when administered during the first week of symptoms. The researchers found that rapid tests correctly identified COVID-19 in an average of 78.3 percent of cases during the first week.
In the second week, the average dropped to 51 percent.
Differences between brands
The researchers found a large range of accuracies between manufacturers of the tests.
Coris Bioconcept scored the poorest and correctly provided a positive COVID-19 result in only 34.1 percent of cases. SD Biosensor STANDARD Q had the highest score and correctly identified a positive COVID-19 result in 88.1 percent of people.
Read Also: How Much Is The Rapid Test At Cvs
Claims That Cdcs Pcr Test Cant Tell Covid From Flu Are Wrong
By Victoria KnightJuly 30, 2021
We encourage organizations to republish our content, free of charge. Heres what we ask:
You must credit us as the original publisher, with a hyperlink to our khn.org site. If possible, please include the original author and Kaiser Health News in the byline. Please preserve the hyperlinks in the story.
Have questions? Let us know at
How Accurate Are Rapid Antigen Tests
Polymerase chain reaction tests, which have typically been considered the gold standard for detecting the virus, are typically performed in a laboratory and involve making many copies of the viruss genetic material. That process helps P.C.R. tests to detect even minute traces of the virus.
Rapid antigen tests, which do not amplify the virus, are less sensitive than P.C.R. tests. If you take one during the earliest phase of an infection, before the virus has replicated widely, the test could return a false negative.
Some of the at-home antigen testshave an overall sensitivity of roughly 85 percent, which means that they are catching roughly 85 percent of people who are infected with the virus and missing 15 percent. In some studies, their real-world performance has been even lower.
But the tests are more sensitive in people with symptoms than without and are most sensitive during the first week of symptoms, studies have found.
And antigen tests are excellent at flagging people who have high viral loads and who are thus most likely to be actively transmitting the virus to others, experts said.
You May Like: How Much Is Pcr Test At Cvs
What Is A False Positive
A false positive is when someone who does not have coronavirus, tests positive for it.
No test is 100% accurate – there will always be some people who test positive when they do not have the disease, or test negative when they do have it.
False positives in any testing programme are important – especially when there is low prevalence of a disease – because they could potentially make us think there are significantly more cases of something than there really are.
The false positive rate usually refers to the number of people who are not infected but get positive results, as a proportion of all the people tested who really don’t have the virus. We do not know what the precise rate is though.
Dr Paul Birrell, a statistician at the Medical Research Council’s Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, says: “The false positive rate is not well understood and could potentially vary according to where and why the test is being taken. A figure of 0.5% for the false positive rate is often assumed.”
/8what Does A False Positive Mean
A false positive for COVID-19 means a person who gets a positive COVID diagnosis, despite having no active infection or someone who showcases active antibodies without any infection trace.
While no diagnostic test is 100% accurate, the chances of getting a wrong diagnosis can impact the precedence of a disease. Right now, there are a series of tests available for COVID-19.
The odds of getting false positives are higher with antigen and iG antibody tests. However, even RT-PCR tests, considered to be the gold standard for testing have been prone to failure rates and wrongful diagnosis.
We tell you some of the reasons why false positives with COVID-19 can occur, even if rare:
Read Also: How Much Is Covid Test At Cvs
What About False Positives
The FDA issued an alert earlier this month about the potential for false-positive results with some home COVID-19 tests produced by Ellume.
The tests were sold at various retailers nationwide.
“In recent weeks, we noted an increased chance that Ellume COVID-19 Home Tests from specific lots may provide an incorrect positive result,” the company wrote in a statement.
The company also said, “the reliability of negative results is unaffected by this issue and are not included within this recall.”
A manufacturing issue is said to be the cause of the problem. The affected test kits are being pulled off store shelves.
The FDA recommends contacting your health care provider, urgent care facility, or other COVID-19 testing site and request a COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test if you received a positive test result with one of the affected lots of the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test in the last two weeks and have not already had a follow-up molecular diagnostic test to confirm the positive test result.
But according to the FDA, “all tests can experience false negative and false positive results.”
“Individuals with positive results should self-isolate and seek additional care from their health care provider,” the agency said in a release. “Individuals who test negative and experience COVID-like symptoms should follow up with their health care provider as negative results do not rule out a COVID-19 infection.”
This article tagged under:
‘i Completely Trusted The Pcrs’
Graham Loader, from Newbury, says his family have had three positive lateral flow tests, all followed by negative PCR tests taken at the testing site at Newbury Showground in West Berkshire.
He said each time the family got a positive lateral flow test but negative PCR test, they assumed the LFTs must have been at fault.
“I think we just blamed the LFTs because they were a bit basic,” he said.
“I thought they must be detecting something from a cold and be an error.”
His wife, a school teacher, had felt a bit unwell but didn’t have the classic symptoms of coronavirus. She had a negative PCR test but took some time off as a precaution, despite being advised she did not need to.
Mr Loader, who coaches a boy’s football team, thought he’d come down with a cold.
He added: “I completely trusted the PCR, so I feel bad for all the people I’ve been in contact with.”
All samples from the lab, where Immensa Health Clinic Ltd runs the testing operations, are now being sent to other labs.
Government records show that Immensa, which was founded in May 2020 just months after the start of the pandemic, has been awarded contracts for Covid testing by the Department of Health valued at ÃÂ£181 million.
UKHSA said all other labs are working normally and there are no technical issues with the test kits themselves.
“We have immediately suspended testing at this laboratory while we continue the investigation.”
We have been hearing about this for the past couple of weeks – anecdotally – from GPs.
Also Check: Are You Guaranteed To Get Covid If Exposed
Parlor Pizza’s Chicago Locations Resume Operations After Shut Down Following Raids
The most accurate form of COVID testing is a PCR test, though no at-home tests currently authorized offer this method and instead rely on antigen testing.
According to Dr. Nimmi Rajagopal, the associate chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine for Cook County Health, the accuracy of the test “depends on the scenario.”
“There are, of course, with any tests, there’s a ratio of you can get false positives or false negatives and these tests fall in that same realm,” she told NBC Chicago. “So it kind of depends on what you’re testing for and what the risk is.”
Many factors play into the effectiveness of the tests, including timing and type of test. She recommends those who have lingering symptoms and known exposure who receive a negative test continue to isolate and monitor, and take another test in a few days or contact their health care provider for further guidance.
Other health experts agree.
These tests need to be used judiciously, Cole Beeler, director of symptomatic testing for Indiana Universitys COVID-19 Medical Response Team and an assistant professor at the IU School of Medicine, told NBC News. If you had a high risk exposure and/or are symptomatic and you have a negative test, it still may be worthwhile to get a formal test done in a hospital lab.
How Likely Is A False Negative
Another potential cause of false negative test results is human error during testing.
If the person collecting the test doesn’t insert a swab far enough into the pharynx of the person being tested, then they may not get an adequate sample.
A systematic review of the accuracy of PCR tests for COVID-19 estimates out of all tests somewhere between 2 per cent and 29 per cent are false negatives.
The data analysed in the study at Johns Hopkins suggested one in five confirmed cases were false negatives.
However, a more recent study suggests false negatives may be less common than we initially thought.
Out of 40,329 health care workers in New York researchers found about 4,000 of the group tested negative on a PCR test and about 3,500 were seronegative .
This means the rate of false negatives was actually quite small, ABC health broadcaster Dr Norman Swan explained on Coronacast.
“It was like a 10 per cent false negative rate. So that’s pretty good actually compared to what we’ve been talking about in the past,” Dr Swan said.
Due to the implications false negatives have for public safety, health authorities recommend a patient still isolates if they test negative but have symptoms that strongly suggest COVID-19.
Infectious disease expert Raina Macintyre from UNSW recommends three repeat tests after a negative result when the patient is suspected of having COVID-19.
Read Also: Cvs Nasal Swab Test
Preliminary Research Suggests That Commonly Used Procedures Frequently Fail To Detect The Virus
A couple of weeks ago, my oldest daughter, who is about to turn 27, developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19: a dry cough, a sore throat, a fever, and difficulty breathing. On March 23, she went to an urgent care clinic for a nasal swab test, which came back negative on Tuesday, eight days later. She was disappointed, in a sense, because she hoped she would at least come out of the experience with some immunity to the virus. Her doctor instructed her to remain isolated at home for three days after her symptoms subsided, just in case.
That is sound advice in light of evidence suggesting that negative COVID-19 tests may frequently be wrong. A study of 213 patients in China’s Guangdong province who had laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-related pneumonia found that in mild cases tested up to seven days after the onset of symptoms, the virus showed up in samples from nasal swabs 72 percent of the time in severe cases tested within seven days, it was detected 73 percent of the time. For patients tested eight to 14 days after symptom onset, the nasal swab tests were positive 72 percent of the time in severe cases and just 56 percent of the time in mild cases.
Just Showing Up At A Testing Site
Although there are more viral tests available than when the virus first began to spread, you still need a doctor’s order before you can get one. If you show up at a local testing site without a doctor’s order, you’ll more than likely be turned away.
The Rx: Your doctor may not have access to a viral test but if you call your physician and discuss your symptoms, you may be provided with orders to get a test.
Don’t Miss: How Much For Covid Test At Cvs
What You Need To Know About Covid
Explore top articles, videos, research highlights and more from the AMAyour source for clear, evidence-based news and guidance during the pandemic.
There are two main types of tests: viral tests and antibody tests. A viral test tells you if you have a current infection and it includes PCR and antigen tests. An antibody or serology test might tell you if you had a past infection and should not be used to diagnose a current infection.
Widespread testing with quick turnaround times is neededalong with vaccination, wearing a mask, physically distancing and washing handsto effectively control the COVID-19 pandemic. But with several different types of COVID-19 tests on the market today, it has left many wondering when they should get tested and which test is most appropriate. One pathologist helps clear up some of the confusion around COVID-19 testing.
The AMAs What Doctors Wish Patients Knew series provides physicians with a platform to share what they want patients to understand about todays health care headlines, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
How Common Are False Positive Results
To understand how often false positives occur, we look at the false positive rate: the proportion of people tested who do not have the infection but return a positive test.
The authors of a recent preprint undertook a review of the evidence on false positive rates for the RT-PCR test used to detect SARS-CoV-2.
They combined the results of multiple studies . They found false positive rates of 0-16.7%, with 50% of the studies at 0.8-4.0%.
The false positive rates in the systematic review were mainly based on quality assurance testing in laboratories. Its likely that in real world situations, accuracy is poorer than in the laboratory studies.
A systematic review looking at false negative rates in RT-PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 found false negative rates were 1.8-58%. However, they point out that many of the studies were poor quality, and these finding are based on low quality evidence.
Don’t Miss: How Long Does It Take For Cvs Rapid Test Results
Bringing People With You To Get Tested
You got your doctor’s order, you have your mask on, and you’re ready to head to the testing site. If possible, it’s best to go at it alone. If you suspect you have COVID-19, you should already be self-isolating so you don’t spread the virus to your household members. Hopping in the close quarters of a car with your family members is one sure-fire way to spread the virus to the ones you love.
The Rx: If you feel well enough to drive, head to the testing site alone and try to stay away from your household members until you can confirm you don’t have COVID-19. If possible, avoid public transportation and unnecessary interactions with other people.