Covid-19 NAA (PCR or TMA) Testing
COVID-19 testing is performed to detect if you’re currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a range of nucleic acid amplification (NAA) testing (such as RT-PCR, TMA or LAMP among other equivalent methods) for the detection of an active COVID-19 infection.
The testing we offer is what is referred to as nucleic acid amplification (NAA) testing, which is the gold standard for detecting viruses. NAA is molecular testing that includes several equivalent methodologies that accomplish the same goal of making billions of copies of viral genetic material (the “amplification” part) in order to detect the presence of a virus in a sample. Two such popular NAA techniques are reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and transcription mediated amplification (TMA). A fluid sample is collected by using a short nasal swab (mid-turbinate swab) or a very short swab (anterior nares swab) to get a sample. The samples are sent to a centralized high complexity lab to perform the testing. NAA tests (RT-PCR and TMA) are very accurate, highly sensitive, and far superior to antigen testing, which test for the presence of viral proteins (typically found in rapid tests and home kits).
Why it’s done
In the U.S., a COVID-19 diagnostic test may be needed if:
- You have COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough, tiredness, or shortness of breath.
- You don’t have symptoms but you’ve had close contact with someone who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus or is suspected of having the virus. Close contact means you’ve been within 6 feet (2 meters) of a person who has COVID-19. If you’ve had close contact with someone who has the COVID-19 virus, get tested at least 5 days after you’ve had contact with them.
- Your doctor or other health care professional or your public health department recommends a test and you’re not fully vaccinated.
You don’t need to be tested if you’ve had COVID-19 in the last 3 months.
Certain groups are considered a high priority for diagnostic testing. These include people with COVID-19 signs and symptoms who:
- Work in a health care facility or as first responders
- Live or work in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, or other places where people are housed closely together, such as prisons or shelters
- Are being cared for in a hospital
Other people may be given priority for testing depending on local health department guidelines for monitoring COVID-19 in individual communities.
Some people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus may not have symptoms (asymptomatic). But they can still spread the virus to others. People with no symptoms can be tested. If people without symptoms have a positive test result, they should follow guidelines for self-isolation to help curb the spread of the virus.
There’s a chance that your COVID-19 diagnostic test could return a false-negative result. This means that the test didn’t detect the virus, even though you actually are infected with it. You risk unknowingly spreading the virus to others if you don’t take proper precautions, such as following social distancing guidelines and wearing a face mask when appropriate. There’s also a chance that a COVID-19 rapid antigen test can produce false-positive results — indicating an infection when actually there isn’t one — if instructions aren’t carefully followed.
The risk of false-negative or false-positive test results depends on the type and sensitivity of the COVID-19 diagnostic test, thoroughness of the sample collection, and accuracy of the lab analysis.
Be wary of any offers for at-home COVID-19 tests that the FDA has not cleared for use — they often give inaccurate results.
How you prepare
Whether or not you have symptoms, plan to wear a face mask to and from the testing center, and have anyone who comes with you wear one, too.
- If you think you may have COVID-19, call your doctor’s office or your local health department to review your symptoms and ask about testing before you go in, so staff can prepare for your visit, wearing personal protective equipment.
- If you have no symptoms but you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, follow the testing advice of your doctor or public health department. Having a COVID-19 test 5 to 7 days after you were close to the person with COVID-19 is best. If you’re tested too soon, the test may not detect the virus.
If you think you may have COVID-19, call your doctor’s office to review your symptoms, if any, and ask about testing. Then your doctor and other staff can prepare for your visit, wear personal protective equipment, and give you instructions about where to go and how the test will be done. Plan to wear a face mask to and from the testing center, and have anyone who accompanies you wear one, too.
If you have no symptoms and have not knowingly been in contact with someone infected with the COVID-19 virus, but you want to get tested, ask your health care provider whether and where testing is available. Or you can call your state or local health department or visit their website for information on testing.
Your COVID-19 test result could be positive (or detected) or negative (not detected).
- Positive result. This means you currently have an active infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. Take appropriate steps to care for yourself and avoid spreading the virus to others. You’ll need to self-isolate until: Your symptoms are improving, and it’s been 24 hours since you’ve had a fever, and at least five days have passed since your symptoms first appeared. Wear a mask for five more days. If you don’t have a fever and want to get tested after at least five days, you may do so. But if your test is positive, stay at home for five more days. If you have severe symptoms of COVID-19 or a health condition that lowers your ability to fight disease, your doctor may recommend that you stay in isolation longer. If you have a positive result but never developed symptoms, isolate for five days after the test and wear a mask for five more days.
- Negative result. This means that you likely weren’t infected with the COVID-19 virus. But a false-negative test result could happen depending on the timing and quality of the test sample. Even if you test negative, you could become infected in the future, so it’s important to follow guidelines for social distancing, face mask use, and hand-washing to avoid potential spread. Your doctor may recommend repeat testing if you continue to have symptoms.
Please check the following links to the CDC website for more information.