Everyone today is aware of the symptoms of COVID. Hence, at the first sign of cough, fever, sore throat, diarrhoea and body ache, people ask their doctors if they should get tested for COVID. Until the results arrive, it is natural to be in a state of anxiety. But once the report is delivered and it says you are COVID negative, you may breathe a sigh of relief.
But actually, it may be too early to celebrate. Of late, instances of false COVID reports are on the rise. Here’s what you need to know.
False negatives are dangerous
A false negative means your test result has come back negative but the report is false. You have COVID. A false negative is disruptive to the process of fighting the pandemic. The patient will not receive the appropriate care at the right time and his/her family too will be exposed.
Why are false negatives on the rise?
The PCR tests that determine whether you have COVID or not are actually outdated. These tests were designed soon after the pandemic struck. The PCR tests are not equipped to detect the mutated coronavirus such as the super-infectious UK virus, South Africa virus or Brazil virus. The virus has changed it’s composition, but the tests have not kept up with the change.
The number of tests being done everyday numbers in lakhs. This magnitude of testing is unprecedented. Laboratories are overwhelmed and technicians are working overtime to deliver results on time. In such circumstances, human error cannot be ruled out. Samples can get mixed out, or there may be errors when the report is printed. Such errors are rare but not unheard of.
The time of the test
If you get tested during the incubation period of the virus, a COVID test will possibly not show traces of coronavirus in your system. That is why people are advised to get tested at least 14 days after they had been exposed or get re-tested if the doctor suspects that the result is a false negative.
There could’ve an issue with the sample collection
PCR test samples are collected with a Q-tip or cotton bud which is inserted into the nasal passage or down the throat to collect your mucus. These regions are where the virus replicates itself most profusely. But if the test isn’t administered properly and the right amount of mucus isn’t collected, the analysis of the sample would be incorrect.
So what can you do?
If you are positive that you have been exposed to a person with COVID, or if you have all the classic symptoms of COVID, and yet you get a false negative, ask your doctor if you should opt for a second test. Stay isolated in your home until you get more clarity on the situation.
COVID is evolving and becoming more unpredictable. Even if you are vaccinated, do not relax the precautionary measures such as wearing masks, sanitizing and going out only when necessary.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.