What is a viral test, and what do the results tell you)?

Viral tests are used to diagnose if an individual is currently infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different methods for conducting a viral test. These tests check samples from the respiratory system, such as using swabs to collect samples from inside your nose. Some tests can be completed in minutes, while others may take a few days to be processed by a laboratory. A list of testing sites in Missouri is available through the Department of Health and Senior Services.

If you test positive:

  • A positive test result indicates that the individual is currently infected COVID-19. The testing facility will contact the local health department responsible for your home location, and contact tracers from that department will reach out to you. You will be asked to undergo quarantine/isolation procedures to limit further spread of illness and should limit your exposure to others.

If you test negative:

  • If you test negative during a viral test, you were not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the time of the testing. However, this does not mean that you will not get sick. It is possible that you were early in your infection exposure when the sample was collected, and you could test positive at a different time. In addition, you could possibly become exposed to the virus at a later date and develop the infection at that time.
  • A negative viral test result does not mean that you will not get sick later or that you will never be able to spread the virus to others.

Show All Answers

1. How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
2. What is a viral test, and what do the results tell you)?
3. What is an antibody test?
4. What do the results from an antibody test mean?
5. What are the limitations of antibody testing?
6. Are test materials available in St. Charles County, and how may they be obtained?
7. How does St. Charles County utilize test results? Can an antibody test affect the quarantine period for an individual?
8. How is COVID-19 treated?
9. Should I take chloroquine phosphate, hydroxychloroquine or other medicines to prevent or treat COVID-19?
10. My question was not listed among these FAQs. Where can I go for additional information?