As Omicron continues to spread across the US, there has been growing confusion about how to test and what types to use, which masks are effective and how to safely isolate or quarantine and still have a child. work for or care for.
To clear up the confusion and changing guidance, Nicole Ellis of PBS NewsHour spoke with Dr. Payal Patel, an infectious disease physician at the University of Michigan, who answered some common questions on testing, vaccines, and masking.
Watch the full conversation in the live player above.
Which tests should I use?
The difference between antigen (or rapid) tests and PCR tests is that they detect infections in your body. PCR tests are more sensitive in detecting live and dead virus particles, while antigen tests look for viral proteins and give rapid results. The introduction of at-home antigen tests offers a new level of convenience, providing results within minutes without an appointment. But finding them can be difficult. And some research has suggested that rapid tests are less sensitive to omicrons in the early stages of infection than other types, increasing the potential for false negatives, especially in infections. PCR tests require a visit to a test site and can take several days to get the results.
It can be confusing to know which test is best. Patel said that the first test you can try is the best. The priority is getting results. “Once you have a positive result or a negative result, it’s a lot easier to move on and think about whether I need to quarantine or not?”
When should I test? What about isolation or quarantine?
“What’s really difficult about COVID is that often you’re most contagious before you have symptoms,” Patel said, which means detecting the virus more often if you’re not showing symptoms. can be difficult.
With Omicron, experts believe the contagion period is short, and the CDC recently shifted its recommendations for isolation from 10-days to 5-days after receiving positive test results for vaccination. According to Patel, this change was based on the duration of infectivity.
The CDC’s website has recommendations for people at different levels of risk and vaccination.
Patel said the good news is that vaccines are doing what they want to do to prevent deaths and serious illness.
What kind of mask should I use?
In the meantime, masks will continue to be a part of our everyday lives. While some masking is better than no mask, Patel, along with a growing number of experts, feel that “the time has come to remove the cloth masks,” and to help replace them with surgical, N95 or KN95 masks. Help increase security. Highly permeable Omicron variant.
Laura Santhanam contributed reporting for this piece.