With 35 lakh cases of COVID-19 being reported globally weekly and the scare of new Omicron sub-variant BF.7, the health authorities are urging people to be more vigilant and follow proper hygiene practices. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the various aspects of testing.
According to the ICMR’s advisory on purposive testing for COVID-19, in the community setting, symptomatic individuals with cough, fever, sore throat, breathlessness and/or other respiratory symptoms, loss of taste and/or smell, contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases, international travellers or individuals undertaking international travel.
In hospital settings, testing may be undertaken at the “discretion of the treating doctor”, ICMR advisory states.
Dr Ravi Shekhar Jha, a pulmonologist at Fortis Hospitals, in Faridabad tells the Indian Express that the hospitals need to increase the testing and monitoring of patients with fever, cough, and cold.
Symptoms for Covid-19 with BF.7 variant
According to Dr Bharesh Dedhia, a critical care specialist at PD Hinduja Hospital in Khar, Mumbai, patients with unusual fever, cough, and headaches need to be monitored. They should also be vigilant about other symptoms such as worsening breathing or experiencing oxygen saturation drops.
He also stated that although the various variants of COVID-19 have their own transmissibility, they do not usually cause a change in the symptoms. Moreover, he said the variant appears to be mild except for those with low immunity and for the elder generation.
When should one get tested?
According to Dr Subhendu Mohanty of Sharda Hospital in Noida, the testing protocols for COVID-19 remain the same. However, he noted that patients with pneumonia should not be tested unless they have no apparent cause for the illness.
Tests that are available
ICMR has stated that real-time PCR and RAT are the most common tests used for diagnosing SARS-CoV-2 in the country. It also noted that other methods such as CBNAAT, TrueNat, and CRISPR can be used for testing.
The three main types of COVID tests are molecular, antibody, and antigen. The former detects the genetic material of the virus while the latter determines the level of antibodies produced by the body’s immune system. However, these tests cannot diagnose an active case of COVID-19.
According to Dr Dedhia, the testing procedure for COVID-19 remains the same for any type of variant. The only way to confirm if a person is infected with the virus is through genetic testing. This process involves examining the genetic sequence and lineage of the variant.
How to do Covid testing
The ICMR has stated that a positive result from a point-of-care test, which includes a molecular test and a self-administered RAT or Home/Self-test, should be considered as confirmation. However, it noted that symptomatic individuals who test negative at home /self-test or RAT test should undergo an RTPCR test.