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If You are Fully Vaccinated
Find new guidance for fully vaccinated people. If you are not vaccinated, find a vaccine.

Testing for COVID-19

Last update: February 14, 2022 at 12:10:59 A.M. ET

Types of Tests
 

COVID-19 tests are available that can test for current infection or past infection.

  • A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. Two types of viral tests can be used: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests.

  • An antibody test (also known as a serology test) might tell you if you had a past infection. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection.

Who Should Get Tested for a Current Infection

 

The CDC recommends that anyone with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection. If you get tested because you have symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus, you should stay away from others pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Most people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone with confirmed COVID-19.

  • Fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19 symptoms do not need to be tested following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.

  • People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered do not need to get tested following an exposure as long as they do not develop new symptoms.

  • Unvaccinated people who have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 because they cannot physically distance as needed to avoid exposure, such as travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded or poorly-ventilated indoor settings.

  • People who have been asked or referred to get tested by their healthcare provider, or state, tribal, local, or territorial health department.

When You are Fully Vaccinated and Traveling Internationally

 

Before arriving in the United States, you are required to get tested 3 days before travel by air (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and get tested 3-5 days after your trip.

How to Get Tested for a Current COVID-19 Infection

  • Contact your healthcare provider or visit your state, tribal, local, and territorial health department’s website to find the latest local information on testing. The type of viral COVID-19 tests offered may differ by location.

You and your healthcare provider might also consider either an at-home collection kit or an at-home test if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and if you can’t get tested by a healthcare provider or public health official.

 

How to Use The Results of Viral Tests

 

If you test positive for COVID-19, know what protective steps to take if you are sick:

  • Most people have mild COVID-19 illness and can recover at home without medical care. Contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms are getting worse or if you have questions about your health.

If you test negative for COVID-19, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected. This does not mean you will not get sick:

  • A negative test result only means that you did not have COVID-19 at the time of testing or that your sample was collected too early in your infection.

  • You could also be exposed to COVID-19 after the test and then get infected and spread the virus to others.

  • If you have symptoms later, you may need another test to determine if you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

How to Get Tested for a Past Infection

Antibody or serology tests look for antibodies in your blood that fight the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • Antibodies are proteins created by your immune system that help you fight off infections. They are made after you have been infected or have been vaccinated against an infection.

  • Antibodies help you fight off infections and can protect you from getting that infection for some period of time afterward. How long this protection lasts is different for each disease and each person.­

Antibody tests should generally not be used to diagnose a current infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. An antibody test may not show if you have a current infection because it can take 1 to 3 weeks after the infection for your body to make antibodies.

What do your results mean

If you test positive

  • A positive test result shows you may have antibodies from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there is a chance that a positive result means you have antibodies from an infection with a different virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses). Note: Other coronaviruses cannot produce a positive result on a viral test for SARS-CoV-2.

  • Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 may provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. But even if it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies may provide or how long this protection may last.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about your test result and the type of test you took to understand what your result means. Your provider may suggest you take a second type of antibody test to see if the first test was accurate.

  • You should continue to protect yourself and others since you could get infected with the virus again. If you work in a job where you wear personal protective equipment (PPE), continue wearing PPE.

  • You may test positive for antibodies even if you have never had symptoms of COVID-19. This can happen if you had an infection without symptoms, which is called an asymptomatic infection.

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