What’s the Difference Between PCR and Rapid Covid-19 Testing?

FCUC-Covid-19 Testing Differences

If you’re feeling sick or you were recently in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you’re probably looking into your COVID-19 testing options. And if so, it’s likely that you’ve also become confused by the different types of testing talked about from co-workers, friends and family, even the media. Terms like PCR, rapid testing, and antibody testing are splashed across websites when talking about COVID-19, and it can be difficult to make sense of what they mean and which one is right for you. Our goal for you, by reading this article, is to explain the differences between the two most common tests to diagnose COVID-19: rapid tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

PCR Tests

PCR tests are considered the gold standard when it involves COVID-19 testing. In fact, most travel and work requirements are based on a PCR test. These tests provide more accurate results than rapid tests, and that’s because they use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to spot the viral genetic material of COVID-19. This test involves collecting secretions via nasopharyngeal swab, then examining the RNA specific to the COVID-19 virus. A person will test positive both when they are actively infected and also after the acute illness. PCR results are not as quick as rapid tests. The general timeline is a minimum of 2-3 days. Family Choice offers the PCR test, outside in the drive thru. No appointment or referral necessary.

Rapid Molecular Tests (the best Rapid test)

A rapid molecular test is a good way to get a quick result with decent accuracy. Common test name: ABBOTT ID Now. The test involves collecting secretions via nasal swab. Family Choice offers the Abbott ID Now test by appointment only.

Rapid Antigen Tests

A rapid antigen test is best for patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Common test name: BINAX Now. This test involves collecting secretions via nasopharyngeal swab, then examining them for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus. While these tests provide quick results—usually within 15 minutes—they are much less accurate than PCR tests. It is common to receive a false negative (a result that indicates the individual doesn’t have coronavirus when in fact, do have Covid-19) or a false positive (a result that indicates a person has coronavirus when they actually don’t have Covid-19). If you are feeling under the weather and received a negative rapid test, you may want to obtain a PCR test for further confirmation. However, when administered while someone is at the peak of their infection, rapid antigen tests can provide accurate results as this is when virus levels in the body are the highest.

Antibody Testing

Family Choice does not recommend antibody testing at this time. The options available are very inaccurate.

Covid-19 Testing at Family Choice Urgent Care

Family Choice Urgent Care is here to help residents of Central Oregon and anyone traveling through Deschutes County who need COVID-19 testing. We offer both the Rapid Molecular and PCR testing at both of our locations in Bend and Redmond. No referral is needed.

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