There are two kinds of tests for COVID-19:
- Viral tests are used when you feel sick to find out if you have COVID-19. These tests use a tool called real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to detect the novel coronavirus. This test is most accurate when there is a lot of virus in your body, generally in the first week of infection. This test tells us if you have COVID-19 right now.<p>
- Serological tests (also known as antibody tests) are used to find out if you have been exposed to or recovered from COVID-19. These tests should not be used to diagnose someone with COVID-19. Serology tests look for the presence of antibodies to the coronavirus in your body. The body generally develops antibodies a few days to weeks after the infection starts. This test tells us if you have already had COVID-19.
Last update: April 25, 2020 at 3:30pm ET
Science review by: ERS, GSN, JAB