Bethesda Pediatrics has several options available for those interested in Covid-19 testing.
The main test we are now using regularly in our office to diagnose an active Covid-19 infection is a rapid antigen screen. This test screens for a protein component on the surface of the virus via a nasal swab sample, which is similar to the rapid Strep and Flu tests many people are familiar with. The test is run on site at the time of your office visit and results are available within about 20 to 30 minutes. Positive tests are considered highly accurate. Negative test results in a symptomatic person may warrant additional or confirmatory testing via PCR. Rapid antigen tests perform best in the early stages of infection.
We can also collect samples for Covid PCR testing that are then shipped to and run at an out of state lab. This test is considered the most accurate as it checks for the genetic material of the virus (RNA). It is run on a nasopharyngeal sample, which is deeper than a nasal swab. Results are generally available within 36 to 48 hours – however, tests collected and sent out on Fridays are not run until the following Monday and therefore have a longer time before results are reported.
All testing done at our office is by appointment only and is scheduled in the later afternoon. We continue to see only healthy patients for check-ups and follow up visits throughout the morning and early afternoon for infection control and social distancing purposes.
Antibody (or serology) tests are blood tests to see if you have any evidence of immunity against coronavirus. We can provide an order for a patient to have blood drawn at an outside lab if requested, but this type of test does not diagnose an active infection and has very limited usefulness in pediatric patients. There is no data currently that shows that antibodies will protect a person from reinfection or from being able to carry and transmit the virus to others.
There continue to be many options for testing outside of our office throughout Montgomery County. Your best resource is to check on the Maryland Department of Health website for locations (https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/symptoms-testing). Written orders or prescriptions for tests run at county-based centers are generally not required. Types of tests available and wait time for results can vary greatly. Tests run at private institutions (such as Medstar, PM Pediatrics, Righttime Care and other retail-based clinics) generally require an evaluation first, and we cannot directly order testing at those sites. Their fees may vary so please check their websites.