COVID-19 is making a resurgence with the Delta variant rapidly spreading. Even with a COVID-19 vaccine that is 95 percent effective, 1 in 20 vaccinees will become infected. The Delta variant spreads two to three times faster than the original strain. So, there are more cases among everyone—vaccinated and unvaccinated. Detecting those who are infected but have no symptoms is critical to controlling the virus. Asymptomatic people are more likely to spread COVID-19 since they’re often not isolating or adopting preventative behaviors.
Asymptomatic transmissions are rampant, and the total number of COVID-19 infections is likely greater than those reported. JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) has noted almost one out of every four infections may be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals. Infected people are most contagious early in their illness, when they’re beginning to experience symptoms. Thus, identifying people without symptoms using quick, reliable testing is crucial for containing COVID-19. Furthermore, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) now recommends fully vaccinated people get tested after exposure even if they have no symptoms.
People Without Symptoms Can Spread COVID-19
“Without symptoms” refers to two groups of people: those who eventually have symptoms (pre-symptomatic) and those who never have symptoms (asymptomatic). The pandemic has shown that people without symptoms can still infect others. Pre-symptomatic individuals can spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing signs and remain contagious for 10 days or more. And, someone who is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, can remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive. If an asymptomatic person has a positive antigen test for COVID-19, the CDC recommends a follow-up laboratory diagnostic test or NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test). While a positive antigen test result indicates a high likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection, NAAT results are considered definitive if there is a discrepancy between the two tests.
COVID-19 Outbreaks in Congregate Settings
The CDC notes asymptomatic COVID-19 cases are challenging to identify since individuals don’t know they have the virus unless they’re tested over the course of infection. Therefore, testing has become a cornerstone of fighting COVID-19. This includes testing in schools, workplaces, and other locations to screen for individuals without symptoms who may spread the virus. Screening results help organizations decide whether a community event should occur or an individual should participate.
Convenient screenings are being established at travel locations, universities, senior living centers, hospitals, businesses, and government offices. Additionally, those who plan to travel will likely require testing before and should be tested afterward. Breakthrough cases are a significant reason for screening since they can cause community transmission of COVID-19. Widespread community transmission is perilous—flooding hospitals with patients. Screening of exposed populations to identify and isolate asymptomatic infected individuals is imperative.
Groups wanting to establish screening programs should consider:
- Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people without symptoms can still spread the virus
- Identifying patients who are COVID-19 negative can conserve scarce resources
- Identifying patients with pre-symptomatic COVID-19 will highlight those at higher risk of poorer outcomes
This pandemic has heightened the importance of large-scale population testing and it may become common in public health. Screenings assist organizations in implementing precautions and managing COVID-19 among their population. If an outbreak occurs, then best practice is to suspect everyone in a group has been exposed. Therefore, serial COVID-19 testing should be performed every 3-7 days until there are no new cases for 14 days.
COVID-19 Screening Reduces Transmission
Studies suggest that asymptomatic people may be driving the spread of COVID-19. Organizations should conduct screening of asymptomatic individuals for SARS-CoV-2 as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce transmission and assure the safety of their employees, patients, students, and others. Diagnostic COVID-19 tests for asymptomatic individuals are applicable when the potential for substantial community transmission is suspected. Other countries have successfully used large-scale asymptomatic testing to stem the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, screening asymptomatic individuals is recommended as part of contact tracing measures. If more asymptomatic COVID-19 positive patients stay quarantined, the more effective efforts will be at flattening the curve.
Saliva Samples Make Asymptomatic Testing Easy
Making asymptomatic testing quick and reliable will encourage the greatest participation. It’s been documented that saliva samples are more sensitive than nasal swabs for COVID-19 diagnosis. In addition, swab collection can cause discomfort and requires a healthcare provider. SalivaDirect™ is a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) diagnostic test for detection of SARS-CoV-2 in saliva. Saliva tests are more reliable than rapid antigen tests. And, with a doctor’s prescription, CommunityLab’s SalivaDirect at-home COVID-19 collection kit can be used by individuals without symptoms. After a sample is correctly collected and sent to the lab for testing, test results are communicated to the ordering physician and available to patients through a secure online portal.
CommunityLab provides COVID-19 screening packages to meet the needs of various organizations and settings including senior living facilities, businesses, and schools to minimize COVID-19 spread and keep their activities on track. Additionally, travelers and people who are part of congregate communities can keep a SalivaDirect test on hand for screening if someone around them becomes ill.
CommunityLab’s SalivaDirect Tests Diagnose Asymptomatic Patients
Serial testing of asymptomatic and unvaccinated persons for SARS-CoV-2 is key to preventing further transmission. While most COVID-19 tests can be used to test asymptomatic individuals, not all tests are approved for screening asymptomatic populations on a regular basis. Screening with CommunityLab SalivaDirect tests not only allows for early identification and isolation of persons who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic and who might be unknowingly transmitting virus but is also approved for screening groups who are asymptomatic. Screening is especially valuable in areas with high community transmission and low vaccination rates, communities with high risk of poorer outcomes, and for people who travel.
CommunityLab SalivaDirect test for COVID-19 is the solution for organizations wishing to safeguard their population from the virus and for individuals without symptoms who may have been exposed. Don’t waste time waiting for results or enabling an outbreak to occur. Talk with CommunityLab about establishing an asymptomatic screening program for your group or order an at-home COVID-19 collection kit from CommunityLab for yourself. Increase your peace of mind and protect everyone around you.