Update: Point of Care Antigen Test Use and Interpretation

The Pennsylvania Department of Health released the following update on January 22, 2021.

  • The availability and use of point of care (POC) antigen tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 are increasing.
  • The main advantage of using these antigen tests is the rapid turnaround time for results; however, these tests are not as sensitive as molecular tests (i.e., PCR).
  • Some sites may be new to using these POC tests and, in order to ensure accuracy of results, facilities conducting these tests should become familiar with good laboratory practices. Some laboratory best practices and suggestions for preventing errors are included in this message.
  • Individuals using POC tests should understand antigen test performance characteristics in order to recognize potentially false negative or false positive results and to guide patient management.
  • Assessment of the person being tested, which would include the likelihood they have the disease or were exposed to COVID-19, should be considered when interpreting antigen test results and assessing the potential need for additional testing.
  • The following message is being disseminated to address questions associated with antigen tests and assist with the use and interpretation of POC antigen test results.
  • While some information contained in this HAN may be useful for long term care facilities, separate guidance for using antigen tests and the associated public health response in these facilities has been previously disseminated. Long term care facilities using antigen tests should refer to guidance disseminated in HAN-547.
  • If you have questions about this guidance, please call your local health department or 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

Please click here for the entire health update. (PDF)

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