What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2), which is a newly discovered strain belonging to the coronavirus family. The strain was first documented in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The disease was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organization on 30 January and a pandemic on 11 March. Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in Mason City is helping the residents of Iowa and Mason City learn about all new developments regarding COVID-19 testing.
Symptoms of COVID-19
The onset of symptoms after exposure ranges from 2-14 days and it may present as a mild self-limiting infection or progress to severe disease, requiring ICU care and ventilatory support, Dr. Khan from Quick Care Urgent Care Clinic in Mason City, Iowa is proactive in helping patients get tested and diagnosed. Research regarding the symptoms of COVID-19 is still being conducted but a few symptoms have been observed in most of the affected individuals, they are as follows:
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Anosmia (Loss of sense of smell)
Complications include severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and pneumonia and may cause death. There is no known vaccine or specific antiviral treatment. An infected individual can only receive symptomatic treatment and ventilatory support. Therefore it is essential to follow the standard operating protocols, maintain social distancing, and use preventive measures such as handwashing and covering the mouth and nose to prevent getting the infection or spreading it and also getting it tested.
How Does It Spread?
The virus is primarily spread between people in close contact, most often through small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, and talking. People can also get infected by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their faces.
● Why get tested for COVID-19 in Iowa and near Mason City?
The virus can be spread before the appearance of symptoms and is contagious for about 3 days after the onset of symptoms. There is a high chance that you were exposed to the virus and do not recall coming in contact with an infected individual. It is important to get tested for your safety as well as the safety of your family. It can be dangerous and though the recovery rates are high the risk of complications and death is still not negligible. The following are examples of cases where you may end up becoming a source of harm for yourself or others around you.
- You may be susceptible due to your age or status of immunocompetency.
- A family member, friend, or acquaintance may get it from you.
Today we have articulated this article to emphasize the importance of COVID-19 testing and to discuss the modalities available.
● Who should get COVID-19 testing?
Call your local Quick Care Urgent Care in Mason City, Iowa (Cerro Gordo County), your healthcare provider or your local health departments to discuss your symptoms or history of exposure to find out whether you need a test or not. The following people who may or may not be showing symptoms are usually recommended to get COVID-19 tests done.
- You have had a prolonged hospital stay.
- You are a first responder or healthcare provider.
- People admitted to or working at nursing facilities.
- Recent history of travel.
- History of being in contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.
- You were in an area that had COVID-19 cases reported.
It is not always easy to get immediately tested, so while awaiting tests it is advised to self-isolate instead of putting others at risk.
● Where to go for the tests near Mason City, Iowa?
Your healthcare provider, urgent care, or local healthcare facilities can help guide you to the nearest test centers where there are kits available. You may be required to follow special protocols for visiting the test centers. Iowa has tried to make access to COVID-19 tests easier for Iowans and increase the availability of tests. Approximately 19,000 individuals have been tested in Iowa. They have also opened three new testing sites in the last week of May 2020.
Mason City COVID-19 Testing
● Options for Samples
According to the CDC, a nasopharyngeal swab is the recommended sample to be sent for COVID-19 testing. The swab is obtained by using a 6” cotton swab and inserting it up both nostrils and moving it around for about 15-20 seconds. Nasal swabs, saliva, and sputum samples can also be used. Blood tests are also used for antibody and antigen testing.
● Options for Testing
The following types of tests are available for the COVID-19:
- Polymerase chain reaction test (PCR)
- Lateral Flow Assays (Serology Tests)
- Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)
- Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for COVID-19
The RT-PCR is a molecular diagnostic test that is commonly performed on nasopharyngeal swabs; nasal swabs and sputum samples can also be used although they are less commonly utilized. The swabs are transported in a sterile vial to laboratories for testing. The PCR detects the genetic information of the virus which can only be found in swabs of individuals in whom the virus is present and is causing an active coronavirus infection. The genetic code of the viruses can be DNA or RNA. COVID-19 carries an RNA genetic code. The strain which is used for detection was isolated by Chinese scientists who were successful in identifying a strain of coronavirus and publishing a genetic sequence so that laboratories around the world could independently establish polymerase chain reaction ( PCR) experiments to diagnose the viral infection.
Advantages of COVID-19 PCR Test
The following are a few advantages of the COVID-19 PCR test.
- The PCR can help in the early detection of the virus. It can show the presence of the virus before the onset of symptoms and the formation of antibodies.
- It is not dependent on the body’s immune response or development of antibodies.
- It is an effective predictor of infection and a good detector for identifying the exposed individuals. The exposed individuals can be tested and quarantined to prevent further spread. This is an important advantage that can help limit infection and flatten the curve.
- It is a good screening tool. Scaling PCR test results to scan substantial numbers of nasopharyngeal swab samples from a population, provides public health authorities a good sense of how a disease like COVID-19 spreads within a population.
One limitation of the PCR COVID-19 test is its inability to determine the status of immunity and immune response against the virus and a negative result is not a useful indicator of immunity in the future. The virus is not detected in individuals who recovered from the disease. PCR tests also require more time, energy, and effort. Due to these limitations, we have two other testing modalities also called serology tests which help identify antibodies against the virus to detect the immune response and status of immunity.
Lateral Flow or COVID-19 Antibody Tests Mason City, Iowa:
Lateral flow tests or in layman terms antibody tests use blood samples to detect COVID-19 antibodies. Tests for the COVID-19 antibodies check the host’s immune response to the virus instead of looking for the presence of the virus. Lateral flow immunoassays require a small amount of blood that is placed on the sponge pad present in the test device. A buffer is added to aid the flow of the sample in the device. If COVID-19 antibodies are present they will bind to the chemicals already present in the device and indicate a positive response in the form of a color change. The control band shows test viability. Two antibodies are detected for COVID-19:
● IgM COVID-19 Antibody
It is the first antibody produced against the virus. It can be detected in blood samples a few days after the infection. Positive IgM titers indicate that your body is responding to the infection and your immune system is trying to fight it off. The presence of IgM not only indicates acute active infection but can also show that you have recently recovered from it.
● IgG COVID-19 Antibody
IgG antibodies are detectable after approximately 10-14 days of onset of symptoms and remain detectable for a long time after the infection has passed and symptoms have resolved. Several studies are underway to check whether the presence of IgM antibodies may provide long term immunity against reinfection and may help in creating herd immunity. As of now the evidence available is non-conclusive.
How to read the result?
- If only a control line is visible the test is negative.
- If the IgM is visible, then the test is positive and you have the infection and should be isolated. Further care depends on the degree of symptoms. Severely ill individuals may require ICU care.
- If IgG and IgM are visible, then the test is positive and you have the infection, isolate from others, and treatment proceeds according to the patient’s condition.
- If only the IgG is visible, then the patient had an infection several weeks ago. This test is also performed before hospital discharge to assess the status of recovery.
Advantages of COVID-19 Antibody Testing
The following are a few advantages of the COVID-19 antibody tests:
- Easy and quick to perform.
- Minimally invasive procedure.
- It does not require special training or special laboratories to conduct the test.
- Detects recent infection, as well as a previous infection.
- It can help monitor the progress of the disease and recovery.
- It has been suggested that in the future might help to detect vaccination response.
The limitation of this test is the fact that it is a new diagnostic tool with minimal research on its effectiveness and that it is expensive. There may be cross-reactivity with other viruses of the same family.
ELISA for COVID-19 Antigen and Antibody
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay is a biochemical technique that can be used to detect COVID-10 antigens and antibodies. These tests use enzymes that attach to molecules we are testing for and the reaction is shown in the form of a color change. The intensity of the color shift gives the physicians an understanding of the number of molecules of significance in the study. COVID-19 Antibody testing is in practice but research regarding antigen testing is still underway The test is performed in a tube in which the patient’s blood sample is mixed with enzymes and the result is interpreted. The tests detect the immune response to the infection and whether the individual had an infection in the past. If research is successful we would soon have antigen testing for the virus widely available which would help us detect the presence of virus and infection before there is an immune response allowing us to isolate an exposed individual who is in early phases of viral shedding.
Advantages of COVID-19 Antibody Testing through ELISA
- Simple and inexpensive with evidence of its effectivity.
- Early results.
- It does not require special labs.
- Multiple samples can be tested simultaneously.
The limitations of the ELISA include less availability of kits specified or COVID-19 testing. The state of Iowa has made details regarding COVID-19 antibody testing available on their website. Mason City residents can check the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health Website. The aim is to develop a greater understanding of the type of immunity people develop against the virus to help make future policies and lift current restrictions. The Iowan government wants to gather information quickly to make effective decisions.
Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification for COVID-19 Testing
This technology also uses swab samples to detect the presence of the virus. The amount of virus detected is higher when compared to PCR and can be read without a machine. It s effective in detecting the virus only if the sample is collected from an individual with an active infection. The test in contrast to PCR is performed at the same temperature.
Advantages of Loop-mediated Isothermal Testing
- Gives results faster and the results can be read from the naked eye.
- It does not require special centers for performing the test, they can be performed in hospital labs.
The testing modality is still in its early phases of development and well-established evidence is lacking. Antibody testing should be used in parallel to molecular testing with diligence to yield better diagnoses.
Summary of COVID-19 and Antibody Testing in Mason City, Iowa:
|Type of Tests for COVID-19||Polymerase Chain Reaction||Antibody Tests|
|Measure||Active viral infection||Past Infection or Ongoing infection|
|Sample Type||Nasopharyngeal Swabs Nasal Swabs Sputum sample||Blood Sample|
|Availability of test results||Few days||2-7 days (Note: Due to national test labs backup)|
|What does it look for?||Presence of the virus||The immune response of the host|
|Positive result||The patient has the infection||The patient has had the virus in the past|
It is important to follow the standard operating protocols to limit the spread of infection and people should get tested for the virus to limit the further spread, receive appropriate care. The state government of Iowa is trying to get as many residents tested as possible to assess the level of spread and degree of immunity and introducing policies that help the residents in this pandemic. Call our urgent care at (641) 351-6888, we are ready for COVID-19 and Antibody Tests, This will enable you to keep your workplace, family, and surroundings safe while planning for any preventative care that may be needed. We are located at 1420 4th St SE, Mason City, IA 50401. Call or Schedule your COVID-19 and Antibody testing today!
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