Do Home COVID-19 Tests Detect the Omicron Variant?
Yes, but U.S. health officials say early data suggests they may be less sensitive to detection.
Government recommendations for the use of home testing have not changed. People should continue to use them when a quick result is important.
“The bottom line is that the tests always detect COVID-19, whether it’s delta, alpha or omicron,” says Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists.
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Government scientists have verified that rapid tests are still working as each new variant arrives. And this week, the Food and Drug Administration said preliminary research indicates they detect omicron, but may have reduced sensitivity. The agency said it is still studying test performance with the variant, which was first detected in late November.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, said the FDA wanted to be “completely transparent” in noting that sensitivity may drop a bit, but testing remains important.
There are many good uses for home testing, says Volk. Combined with vaccination, they can make you more comfortable to reunite with family and friends.
If you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive but have no symptoms, a rapid test five days later can give a good indication of whether you’ve caught the virus. It can also help if you’re not sure if your runny nose or sore throat is COVID-19.
But consider the context when looking at the results. If you’re feeling sick after hanging out at a nightclub in an area with a high infection rate, for example, you should look at a negative home test result with a little more skepticism, Volk says.
Tracking a PCR test is a good idea, she says. These tests are more precise and are performed at test sites and hospitals.
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