Questions and answers on community testing

Questions and answers on community testing for Public Health Units and Primary Care

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Can I use a throat swab to test for COVID-19? 

A nasopharyngeal swab placed into a viral transport media (VTM) will obtain the optimal specimen and is the preferred collection method for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.   

An oropharyngeal swab may be considered for those unable to tolerate a nasopharyngeal swab.  If an oropharyngeal specimen is collected, a bilateral anterior nares swab must also be collected at the same time to ensure an adequate amount of the virus is obtained.


Can I test for COVID-19 and for Group A streptococcal infection on the same swab?

Check with your local laboratory – in some regions, both COVID-19 and Group A streptococcal infection can be tested for on the same swab.  Clinicians who work in regions with a high incidence of rheumatic fever who are assessing Māori and Pacific children and young people with a sore throat, may want to consider testing for both COVID-19 and Group A streptococcal infection. 


Should I test the contact of a traveller who meets the Higher Index of Suspicion criteria, even if the traveller has returned a negative test and hasn’t had any symptoms in the last 14 days?

Yes, they meet the Higher Index of Suspicion criteria.


Should I test someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 even though I am unsure about whether they fall into the higher index of suspicion category? 

Yes. You should continue to encourage all patients presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested. The assessment and swabbing for these patients are at no charge to the individuals.


When you say ‘seniors’ are an essential group that should be tested, what age is this? 

Anyone over 70 years is considered a senior.  However, you should continue to encourage all patients presenting with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to be tested.


Should children be tested for COVID-19?

Yes. Children should be tested if symptomatic and present with either typical or atypical symptoms, if they meet HIS criteria, are a contact of a case, if otherwise clinically indicated, or by parental request.

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