Coronavirus (COVID-19): Diagnosis

Reviewed by Carrie A. Horn, MD, Charles L. Daley, MD, Gwen A. Huitt, MD, MS, Shannon H. Kasperbauer, MD
Coronaviruses are common and affect the respiratory system. Most coronaviruses do not usually cause serious illness.

In the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, coronaviruses can lead to pneumonia and other complications.

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the COVID-19 virus. To diagnose COVID-19, a lab test will look at secretions from the nose, throat, blood or body fluids according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocols.

COVID-19 Overview | COVID-19 Causes | COVID-19 Symptoms | COVID-19 Prevention COVID-19 Treatment

 

Testing for COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Call your doctor if:

  • You develop a fever and cough or shortness of breath within 14 days after traveling from an area with outbreaks

  • You have been in close contact with someone who has traveled from an infected area who has symptoms of the COVID-19

If COVID-19 is suspected, your doctor will contact the CDC or your local health department for current instructions on testing. You may be told to go to a special lab for your test. Only certain labs have been allowed to collect samples and run tests for COVID-19.

Testing for COVID-19 can include collecting tissue samples by:

  • Swabbing the back of your throat (over both tonsils)

  • Swabbing a nostril

  • Injecting a saline solution into your nose and collecting a sample of the solution

  • Collecting sputum or phlegm (the thick, gooey mucous that comes up during coughing)

  • Taking a small amount of blood

  • Obtaining a tissue sample from your lungs with a bronchoscope

The specimens are sent to the CDC or a CDC-approved laboratory that will report results to your doctor.

While you are waiting for test results, stay home and away from other people. Use a mask if you have to go out in public.

 


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