SARS-CoV-2 can be diagnosed using a PCR RNA test that detects viral genetic material in a deep nasal swab sample. Saliva tests are also available. Viral antigen tests that detect fragments of viral proteins are simpler to perform but less accurate. Testing positive indicates current active infection. These tests are still in limited supply in many areas and they may be reserved for people with symptoms or suspected exposure.
Another type of test (known as a serology test) detects antibodies to the coronavirus in the blood, which reveal whether someone was infected in the past. Most experts expect that these antibodies will offer some protection against future infection, but it is not yet known how long this immunity might last.
If you think you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, contact a health care provider if you develop a fever, cough, difficulty breathing or other symptoms. Before you go to a clinic or hospital, call ahead so the staff can give you instructions and take appropriate precautions.
Last Reviewed: July 6, 2020