Rapid Antigen Testing - UPDATE

Feb 15, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

With Omicron overwhelming PCR testing across Manitoba and even North America, the dependence on rapid tests has grown exponentially. As a health care professional who also wants to see businesses, schools, sports, and travel going the difficulty of accessing these tests has been frustrating. I have spent hours sending emails and making phone calls trying to find these tests, while watching news of those in the US and Europe purchase them with ease at their local pharmacy. The Federal and Provincial government have also had the same challenges. After promising 140 million tests in January, February is here, and we still do not have any consistent access to tests.

The good news is the DCP has been able to source tests in a variety of pack sizes. The bad news is they are somewhat costly. Somehow, we need a way for the less fortunate and our front-line workers to be able to access these tests. It is how myself, and later my family discovered we had COVID-19. Because my symptoms were somewhat mild, I think a positive rapid test saved me from infecting other co-workers and maybe some patients.

The rapid tests detect specific proteins of the virus that cause COVID-19 and can usually deliver results within minutes. Some can be done at home without the need of a lab, and others require trained operators to administer them. The CDC reports a positive self-test result means the person is "very likely to have an infection," while a negative result means the test didn't pick up the virus on that day. The test is not 100% accurate but provides a snapshot of whether there is infection present. COVID-19 is proving to be contagious up to two days before you develop symptoms, so these tests can be quite useful even if asymptomatic. If you are using a rapid test for an event, administer the test as close to the start time as possible. If you have symptoms try a test.

Looking at tips on how to perform the test, you want to swab the outside and inside edges of the nostril with a decent amount of force. The COVID-19 virus lives along the skin of the nasal passage, not in the hair of the nose or the "buggers". There has also been some discussion on taking a sample from the throat or tonsil area. Unless your test is approved for this, Health Canada currently does not recommend it. However, many doctors do, and Ontario Health has information online how to do it. Many doctors feel omicron hides out in the throat area, unlike traditional variants. If you have COVID-19 in your throat or nasal passage you still have the virus.

Before Omicron Health Canada suggested those who are positive with a rapid test should get confirmation with a PCR test, considered the "gold standard" test. However, PCR testing is maxed out and it is now recommended to begin isolation if you see a positive rapid result.

If you are traveling to the United States or to other countries who accept antigen testing, we can do it at the pharmacy. We also have a software program which will print off official results for the airport and the program can also email or text you a secured file to have on your phone. Airlines now let you attach the digital document while checking in, so this is a useful feature. We are also testing for work and youth recreational activities for unvaccinated teens. We do require appointments and you must be asymptomatic to attend your appointment. Appointments can be booked by calling 204-638-4602 or emailing us at dcp@mymts.net. The USA requires the rapid antigen test the day before your flight to the USA. It does not need to be within 24 hours, rather the day before as stated by the CDC to not make testing too difficult.

While the rapid antigen tests have limitations, they can be extremely useful for holidays, events, family gatherings, sporting events and in the workplace. Some have questioned whether we need to be testing at all. Its my opinion, but I think so! They are preventing further spread of the virus at a time when our hospitals are full. If are hospitals are not full and at manageable levels, we get to live a more normal life and it will make life better.


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