A doctor explains: Why some are testing negative despite showing COVID-19 symptoms


As the second wave of coronavirus sweeps the country, some people are testing negative despite showing COVID-19 symptoms. Even then, doctors have suspected infection based on their CT scan or blood test reports.

In the wake of this, the Uttar Pradesh government recently announced that such patients would be given treatment in special wards in COVID treatment centres.

Doctors point out that the RT-PCR test for coronavirus may not always show an accurate result. This also depends on whether the patient has been “swabbed correctly”. “RTPCR has a sensitivity of only 60 per cent. The result depends entirely on whether people have been swabbed correctly, whether the area covered included during the swab is the same as where the virus is present,” Dr Praveen Gupta, director and head of department, neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, tells indianexpress.com.

Again, 30 per cent of RT-PCR swab tests are false negative results, says Dr Harish Chafle, consultant intensivist, and chest physician, Global Hospitals, Mumbai. “One need not get complacent if they are swab negative. Please listen to your doctor and not swear by the report. All have to follow the precautions laid down of hand hygiene, social distancing, and wearing masks. Someone who has symptoms suggestive of Covid should consult a chest physician immediately,” he advises.

Again, the chances of the swab test not picking up the virus could also be because of the mutant strains that have emerged, adds Dr Gupta.

So, in case one has COVID-19 symptoms, they should isolate themselves. “Isolation is key to ensuring that the virus, even undetected, does not spread,” he says. They should contact a doctor immediately. They should also drink a lot of fluids.

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