Just when everyone was taking a breather from the highly infectious coronavirus that was slowly reducing in numbers, the battle against the virus suddenly seems to be far from over. Several states including Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra which had shown a decreasing trend in the number of cases in the past few months suddenly seem to have reversed. With Maharashtra still grappling with 5,000+ cases and Tamil Nadu spiking with 100 cases in a single day, many people are contemplating the possibility of another lockdown.
Many medical observers attributed the drop in number of cases to a decrease in the number of tests being carried out and more focus being given to the vaccination drive among other factors like localised herd immunity. Though reports suggest that there was a momentary drop in testing figures in January, the overall tests being carried out remain above the 8 lakh mark.
How is testing done?
There are two types of COVID-19 tests done – the viral test which tells you if you have a coronavirus infection currently and the antibody test which determines if you were affected in the past. The two popular viral tests being conducted in India are Rapid Antigen Test and RT-PCR test. The viral tests are conducted by taking a specimen of saliva from a nasal or throat swab and putting it in a container. The specimen is then sent to a lab for analysis.
Types of viral tests
The Rapid Antigen Tests is known for its extremely fast result producing aspect. It takes just half-an-hour to get the results and requires less support staff to conduct the test. However the antigen tests are infamous for throwing up many false negative reports.
The RT-PCR test known as the gold standard for testing, though a little on the slower side for processing results, is efficient and highly accurate. It has a 100% specificity rate which means it can detect people without the infection with high accuracy. It can detect infection even before its onset in people, enabling early isolation and curbing the virus spread to a huge extent.
Who should get tested?
Apart from people who have come in contact with COVID-positive members, people showing the following symptoms should get tested
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of smell and taste
Additionally people with comorbidities like hypertension, diabetes and underlying heart or lung conditions need to get tested immediately even if showing slight symptoms. Being overweight also leads to hypertension and diabetes leading to higher risks in the pandemic. This can be addressed by following a healthy diet and reducing weight.
Apart from testing, vigilant wearing of masks and continuing to maintain social distancing is the only way to avoid a second wave of coronavirus cases that will severely impact millions of lives in the country.