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COVID-19 Testing PCR Nasal Swab Vs. Rapid Antigen


It’s now been several months since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. The steps we need to take to control the virus are now clearer than they were a few months ago. This includes contact tracing, prevention measures such a social distancing, and the development of tests to detect recent or active infections.

Regarding COVID-19 testing, our A&C Urgent Care locations in Anaheim and Cerritos have taken the necessary steps to make COVID-19 testing as accessible as possible. Our dedicated and highly-experienced team is on a mission to improve how you experience healthcare at every opportunity—including COVID-19 testing.

If you want to know if you are infected, you have two main types of tests to choose from: antigen testing and molecular testing (PCR). Here are the pros and cons of each of the tests:

PCR Nasal Swab COVID-19 Testing

A PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) is a molecular test that we use to detect traces of the coronavirus’ genetic material on a sample collected mostly through nasal swabs. The test demands the use of specific chemical and equipment that are mainly available in a medical office.

Research shows that this type of COVID-19 testing may be inaccurate 30% of the time. More specifically, false negatives may be as low as 2%—while false positives are below 5%.

What are the Pros?

· Unlike Rapid Antigen, PCR tests are recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)—and are considered the gold standard.

· Molecular tests such as the PCR nasal swabs have fewer false negatives—and they are less likely to be contaminated.

· PCR tests are specific and sensitive. They can detect minuscule amounts of the coronavirus.

What are the Cons?

· It’s not as instant as the Rapid Antigen test.

· PCR tests require specialized training, chemicals, and equipment—making it costly and time-intensive.

· The test is not designed to detect ongoing infections—meaning it’s nearly impossible to track or detect a past infection of the COVID-19 virus.

Rapid Antigen COVID-10 Testing

The Rapid Antigen COVID-19 test seeks antigens (protein fragments) from the virus. The tests often target the proteins appearing as spikes on the surface of the virus. Similar to the PCR test, we often collect a nose swab for testing. This swab is then inactivated before being transferred to a test strip. Rapid Antigen tests are reportedly inaccurate with up to 50% false negatives. On the other hand, false positives are extremely rare.

What are the Pros?

· Rapid antigen tests offer instant results. It’s similar to a pregnancy test.

What are Cons?

· The high rate of false negatives means that negative results are not definitive.

· Antigens cannot be detected before or after the virus infection. You have to be currently infected.

Get Urgent Care Today!

We understand that there is a pressing need for proper and safe testing—especially as authorities gradually ease lockdown measures. As part of our exemplary service model, A&C Urgent Care closely monitors COVID-19 developments and CDC recommendations to provide the best care for our clients.

If you suspect you might be infected with the virus, kindly fill out this registration form and visit the nearest A&C Urgent care location—either in Anaheim, CA right by Disneyland and the other in Cerritos, CA right by the Cerritos Mall.

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