COVID-19: Myths about the tests

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COVID-19: Myths behind the tests
27/08/2020
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While the world was still preparing for the arrival of 2020, the news stations gave the first alerts of the new coronavirus in Wuhan, China. On March 6, two months and six days afterward, Colombia reported its first case of the contagion. Since the virus was up to that point unheard of, COVID-19 has brought about new dynamics and ways of living around the world, which have come accompanied by a number of doubts due to the misinformation spread through fake news in videos and messages that make the daily rounds on the Internet.

Some people do not know that they are carrying the virus while others do not even suspect that their work can turn them into a high-risk population for contagion. And others do not even wish to take it seriously and believe that since they do not show any symptoms the virus is outside of them, something others have. They believe they will never get it and therefore decide never to take the test.

Even though there are entities and laboratories that give free exams in places that have strict biosecurity norms and with highly qualified specialists, the fear and uncertainty of many to take the test persists.

Aware that the answers to some of the inquietudes that make the rounds on a diverse set of social networks contain information that distorts the truth, the expert Luis Jorge Hernández clears up some of the myths created in the midst of this pandemic:
 

1. If I take the test, I am going to catch the virus.


False.

“This is not true, let’s not spread false information. There is no risk and the exam itself does not give you the infection”, assures Dr. Luis Jorge Hernández, expert in epidemiology and public health of the Faculty of Medicine at the Universidad de los Andes.

The tests to detect the coronavirus can be done through a process called swabbing. This consists in putting a totally new and clean applicator in the person’s nose to get a sample.

This is done by specialists that comply with strict biosecurity conditions. During the process, they use surgical gowns, N95 surgical masks, double surgical gloves, eye protection, cap and footwear covers.

2. I believe the statistics on infected persons are not true and that the virus will not affect me.


False.

The figures on infected persons have grown considerably. The overwhelming demonstration of the high number of cases is the alert situation that the Intensive Care Units (ICUs) of the country find themselves in, due to the growing demand for beds and ventilators.

For Doctor Luis Jorge Hernández, “The circulation of the virus is a reality and it is producing deaths, especially those over 70 years old. Despite this, he added, there are deaths in all the age groups due to coronavirus”.

Can I get the virus from taking a blood test?


False.

In the case of COVID-19, blood tests are done to detect antibodies in the organisms of the persons, which is to say, proteins that recognize the virus and work to eliminate them. These samples are fundamental to determine if the person was already infected.

The epidemiology expert emphasizes that “the virus cannot be transmitted through an injection because the contagion is presented through oral or nasal drops”. Furthermore, he explained that “the tests are secure and work to reach the at-risk populations, identify their contacts and cut the chains of transmission”.

I do not present any symptoms. Can I still be a carrier of COVID-19?


True.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the main symptoms of Covid-19 are a fever, dry cough and difficulty in breathing. Nevertheless, despite the fact that these discomforts are common in some patients, there are other cases in which the person does not present any symptoms but is carrying the virus.

These are the patients that are asymptomatic, and it is important to identify them to move forward with the mitigation efforts against the contagion. In reference to these cases, specialists assure that the only form of detecting them is by taking a laboratory test.

Are asymptomatic patients contagious?


True.

Asymptomatic cases generate a great amount of spreading of COVID-19 due to the evident difficulty in detecting them. Since it is silent, this makes the virus tend to be more difficult to control, for which reason we carry out the tests in the designated points as an important way of helping neutralize the illness and to protect families and vulnerable persons.

The WHO declared that asymptomatic persons can transmit the coronavirus through actions such as heavy breathing, coughing, speaking or doing exercise because they expel drops that contain the virus. Furthermore, the specialized journal Annals of International Medicine published a study that indicated that 45% of the carriers of the virus may show no symptoms.

Are there currently medications or treatments to prevent coronavirus?


False.

The WHO is currently working on the development of a vaccine. This entity has recommended against self-medicating and has indicated that there is no proof that any medication prevents the spread of coronavirus.

“There is no specific treatment, there is no vaccine. The vaccine could be arriving before the end of the year or in 2021. In the meantime, we need to act as if it will not arrive”, concludes Dr. Luis Jorge Hernández.

The Universidad de los Andes has developed this article in response to the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please be aware of the date of the publication to understand the context of its contents. Do not forget to consult more recent analyses on COVID-19 in our special.

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