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What’s the Difference Between Rapid & PCR COVID-19 Tests?

If you’ve been feeling under the weather 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 quite confused by all the different types of testing available. Terms like PCR, rapid testing, and antibody testing are splashed across websites talking about COVID-19, and it can be hard to make sense of what they mean and which one is right for you. In this article, our goal is to explain the differences between the two most common tests to diagnose COVID-19: rapid antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Rapid Antigen Tests

A rapid antigen test can be administered for individuals with or without COVID-19 symptoms. This test involves collecting nose and throat secretions via nasopharyngeal swab and then examining them for protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 virus. While these tests provide quick results—within 15 minutes—they are generally considered to be less accurate than PCR tests. It’s common to get a false negative (a result that indicates the individual does not have coronavirus when they actually do) or a false positive (a result that indicates a person has coronavirus when they actually don’t). If you are feeling under the weather and received a negative rapid test, you may want to receive the PCR test for further confirmation. However, when administered while someone is at the peak of their infection, rapid antigen tests generally provide accurate results as this is when virus levels in the body are the highest.

PCR Tests

PCR tests are similar to rapid tests in several ways, as they can be administered to those with or without symptoms and are conducted with a nasopharyngeal swab. But that’s where the similarities end.

PCR tests are considered the gold standard when it comes to COVID-19 testing. In fact, if you have ever been asked to show proof of a COVID-19 test, you were required to provide results from a PCR test. These tests provide more accurate results than rapid tests, and that’s because they use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to identify the viral genetic material of COVID-19. This genetic material can be detected while a person is actively infected and also after the acute illness.

The downside to PCR tests, of course, is that results are not as quick as rapid tests. The general timeline is three to seven days, although it can be longer during peak periods.

COVID-19 Testing at PhysicianOne Urgent Care

PhysicianOne Urgent Care is here to help residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York who need COVID-19 testing. We offer both rapid and PCR testing at all of our locations, and we can help you determine the best option for your needs during a telemedicine evaluation.

What’s more, we now offer an express testing option for asymptomatic patients (those without COVID-19 symptoms). This test is not available through insurance and costs $160 for a single test and $210 to receive both the rapid test and PCR test.

To learn more about our COVID-19 testing services, please contact PhysicianOne Urgent Care today or read more here.

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