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Testing for COVID-19

There are two types of tests: viral PCR tests and antibody tests.

  • Viral tests. A swab is taken from a person’s nose or throat and then checked for viral RNA molecules. A viral test shows whether you are currently infected or not.
  • Antibody tests. Unlike a viral test, an antibody test looks for antibodies, not the virus itself. These are special proteins created by the body to fight the infection.

The antibody test works by taking a blood sample and testing it for the presence of antibodies. Most coronavirus tests detect two types of antibodies:

  • immunoglobulin-M (IgM), which is the first antibody produced after initial exposure to infection; and
  • immunoglobulin-G (IgG), which is produced later, but persists for a long time.

With most diseases, the presence of IgM in the blood suggests that the person has an active infection at the time of the test, and IgG presence indicates that it has gone away. But in the case of the new coronavirus, the presence of IgM and IgG can only indicate that the person has been infected and developed an immune response to the virus. The antibody test cannot be used to diagnose a current infection.

Depending on when a person was exposed to infection and the timing of the test, the test may be unable to detect antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection. That’s because it can take 1 to 3 weeks to develop antibodies following exposure. Or the test might detect antibodies when the infection is already gone since they tend to remain in the body for some time.

How to avoid getting infected? The main protection measures against COVID-19

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You don't need to use antibacterial soap – plain soap will do.
  • If there is no access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Disinfect your personal items such as phone, watch, eyeglasses, headphones, and high touch surfaces: doorknobs, tables, light switches, kitchen countertops, and cupboard handles, keyboards, toilet seats, and bowls, sinks, and taps.
  • Don’t touch your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose.
  • Try to keep a safe distance from others, especially if a person is coughing or sneezing. Avoid crowded spaces and busy indoor places.
  • Refrain from handshaking, hugs, and touching other people.
  • When you sneeze or cough, make sure to cover your mouth or nose with the inside of your elbow or a tissue. Throw the used tissue immediately after that.
  • Wear a mask in public places, taxis, public transport, shops.

Preventive Measures

  • get enough quality sleep, avoid stress
  • eat a balanced, varied diet
  • give up smoking and drinking alcohol
  • try to walk more and breathe fresh air
  • if you come in contact with a large number of people, it is recommended to wear safety goggles for greater protection

COVID-19 and Masks

Coronavirus spreads through tiny droplets that come out of an infected person's mouth or nose when they sneeze, cough or talk and enter the respiratory tract of another person. The main purpose of the mask is to prevent the wearer from inhaling other people's droplets and to protect others from coming in contact with the wearer’s droplets.

Despite that, there is limited data on whether masks are effective and all studies have their caveats, public health agencies recommend masks for everyday use. Especially if you are unable to maintain social distancing. For example, in the metro or a shop, at work in an office.

Masks should not be worn if:

  • a child is less than 2 years of age
  • you have trouble breathing
  • you are exercising

Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended. The valve opens when the wearer exhales, allowing droplets from the mouth to escape into the air. So, a sick person can easily infect others even while wearing such a mask.

It is important to understand that the main issue with masks is the false sense of security they can give. The person wearing a mask feels protected and may neglect social distancing or hand washing.

Besides, wearing a mask can be uncomfortable: glasses fog up, it gets more difficult to breathe, the nose gets itchy, there is a constant urge to touch your face. Therefore, masks are effective only when used in combination with other protective measures.

How to Use a Mask

  • before putting on a mask, wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer
  • check it for tears
  • take the mask with the metal strip up
  • put it on your face and make sure to have the pleats point down
  • pinch the metal strip or a nose clip to the shape of your nose
  • pull the mask’s bottom over your mouth and chin
  • to remove the mask, grab it from elastic ear straps, and don’t let the mask touch your face or clothes
  • after use, immediately dispose of the single-use mask by placing it in a closed container or disinfect a reusable one
  • clean your hands with a hand sanitizer and wash them with soap if necessary

Unusual Features of COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 managed to induce the dynamic development of the pandemic and its long-term preservation due to unique features that distinguish it from other types of infection. It can cause the following manifestations:

  • reduce or completely block a person's sense of smell
  • cause all symptoms of a cold with the risk of developing complications
  • induce a cytokine storm, in which the immune system overreacts to a virus
  • tend to mutate. In order to adapt to its environment, the coronavirus often mixes large chunks of its genome
  • infects various organs. In a most typical scenario of the disease course, COVID-19 affects the upper respiratory system and causes pneumonia. But the progress of coronavirus infection can take on an atypical nature, damaging other organs and tissues. For example, heart or blood vessels, which can eventually lead to a heart attack.

SARS-CoV-2 is a pathogen that has conquered the whole world in the shortest time possible. It’s something no other infection has done before, despite the diversity and strength of their varieties.

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Our Doctors

There is no reason to wait days or weeks to see your primary care physician or to go to the emergency room for non-life-threatening conditions.

Dr. Tim Nguyen

Emory University Doctor of Medicine Morehouse School of Medicine Atlanta, GA
Languages spoken
English, Vietnamese
Atlanta, GA
Dr. Tim Nguyen