Omicron: Health regulator warns about accuracy and precision of common tests

Omicron: Health regulator warns about accuracy and precision of common tests

Doctor says weekly covid tests are ‘colossal waste of money’

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Lateral flow tests, also known as rapid tests, are more likely to provide a false negative result when detecting Omicron, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The tests are currently being recommended for use in people without symptoms before mingling with others and to reduce self-isolation.

FDA has urged a warning about lateral flow tests when used against Omicron.

These are the self-tests people use at home to detect the presence of coronavirus before coming into contact with others.

In case you’re not familiar, the FDA is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy and security of drugs, biological products, medical devices and other products in the US.

The US health regulator reported that the common home tests might be more likely to give a false negative due to the heavily-mutated nature of the Omicron variant.

READ MORE: Omicron symptoms: The sign on your skin which could be signalling the new variant

The FDA announced it has partnered up with the National Institutes of Health to look at the performance of rapid tests against patient samples containing live versions of Omicron.

“Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the Omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,” the agency said in a statement.

Sensitivity is used to measure how likely a test is to detect a positive case.

The FDA added it would continue to authorise the use of lateral flow tests and that people should keep using them in accordance with the instructions for now.

In the UK, lateral flow tests are free of charge and can be ordered through the Government website or collected from pharmacies.

These rapid tests are only recommended for people who don’t have any Covid symptoms.

They’ve become one of the key tools during the pandemic in trying to prevent infection when meeting others or going to work.

The news about the accuracy problems comes after the UK is experiencing a shortage of both lateral flow and PCR tests.

Various pharmacies across England had reported running out of rapid test kits before Christmas.

They still haven’t been able to stock up due to the disruptions caused by the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays.

Yesterday morning, people were unable to order the tests through the Government website as well. However, this improved by mid-day, offering delivery slots in three days’ time.

The same problem occurred with PCR tests, with the website indicating no available walk-in tests across England on Tuesday morning.

How do I know if I have Omicron?

The symptoms linked to the new Covid variant may differ from the traditional ones.

Some of the symptoms reported by patients who tested positive for Omicron are:

  • Scratchy throat
  • Mild muscle aches
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Night sweats
  • Nausea
  • Loss of Appetite.

The most reliable way for finding out if you have the virus remains to be a PCR test.

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