Why COVID-19 Home Test Kits Are Not Available in Canada – National

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U.S. health officials approved the first home coronavirus testing kit in April for frontline workers in a bid to expand testing options in most states.The LabCorp home test first selects people using an online questionnaire and, if a doctor allows it, the company ships a test kit to their homes.

The kit includes cotton swabs – which are used in the nostrils – a collection tube, an insulated pouch and a box for returning the specimen to LabCorp.

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FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement the agency had cleared the self-swab test based on data showing it was “as safe and accurate as taking samples in a doctor’s office, hospital or other testing site ”.

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But coronavirus home test kits are currently not available north of the border because they are not approved by Health Canada.

According to the government website, without the advice of a medical professional, there is a significant risk that someone will misuse the home test kit or misinterpret the results.










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“It may also be impossible for health care agencies to collect test results at home,” the agency says. “This information is essential for important public health decisions regarding disease control during a pandemic.”

While home test kits may be less effective, said Ashleigh Tuite, infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at the University of Toronto, they can still be helpful.

“At this point, we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all way out of this pandemic, and every little bit or public health intervention helps,” Tuite said.

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Accuracy of home test kits

Canadians with suspected current cases of COVID-19 are given either a molecular PCR test – which takes swabs from the nose or throat to send to a lab for analysis – or a point-of-care test, which also uses swabs , but the results are delivered the place.

Dr Zain Chagla, associate professor of infectious diseases at McMaster University, says home testing uses samples from testing sites, like the front of the nose, mouth, or spit.

Samples are usually analyzed in laboratories the same way as those administered by professionals, but home kits tend to be less effective at detecting the virus.

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“If you compare (home tests) to the PCR test used by a lab, the lab tests are more sensitive,” Tuite explained. “They are more likely to identify that you are infected than these home tests. ”

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Knowing how to use a home test is also important, Chagla said.

“People need very good, easy-to-understand advice on how to perform the test correctly so that they don’t get a false negative from incorrect sampling, as well as a relatively quick time to get to the lab for analysis.”

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In April, Health Canada approved a rapid test for COVID-19 by Ottawa-based company Spartan Bioscience, but the test was voluntarily recalled in May after the government expressed concerns about its effectiveness.

While testing is undoubtedly useful and a key component in curbing the spread of COVID-19, PCR testing is also not 100% accurate, Dr. Peter Phillips, clinical professor of infectious diseases has previously said. at the University of British Columbia, at Global News.

“The sensitivity (of the test) is only about 60-70%,” Phillips said of PCR testing. “Testing negative is something people should be wary of because it can give a deceptive and false sense of security.”

Possible benefits of home testing

Health Canada says applications for home testing devices will be rejected without “convincing new evidence” demonstrating their effectiveness.

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Tuite said that at the moment we are not at the point where the technology is ready for widespread deployment in Canada. We need more research to show that home testing is effective and safe to use.

But if home testing kits are approved and made readily available to Canadians, they could help scale up testing on a large scale, she said. As COVID-19 lockdown measures loosen and schools prepare to reopen in the fall, more testing and a quick review of results are needed, she said.

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Home test kits could also be useful for daily use by people in high-risk groups, Chagla added.

“It would certainly be a big step forward for the surveillance of people without symptoms in healthcare workers, collective care facilities, and isolated / vulnerable communities such as remote Indigenous reserves – in the context of well-designed and thought-out surveillance strategies. in these circles. Said Chagla.

While Chagla says home testing “certainly has a role to play,” it needs to be carefully studied for accuracy and reproducibility – which is Health Canada’s job.










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And even if home testing is introduced, it is important that people still contact their health care provider to make sure they are receiving proper counseling and follow-up testing if needed. Self-isolation is necessary for anyone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19.

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“Typically these types of decisions tend to favor the use of (coronavirus) testing only in some sort of medically supervised environment to ensure technique accuracy as well as patient confidentiality… but given the global circumstances, we could look at ways to optimize this, ”said Chagla.

Tuite agrees and says that because we are in the midst of the pandemic and want to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19, it’s time to act.

“Now is the time to innovate,” Tuite said. “And that looks like a really promising path.”

The future of home testing

There are many rapid home test kits in the works, including paper strip tests that work by spitting into a tube of solution and inserting a strip of paper. The strip changes color within 15 minutes if you test positive for the virus, much like a home pregnancy test.

Although the paper tapes are not yet on the Canadian market, Chagla says they are a very interesting technology and have the potential for wider distribution. They could also be useful in environments where testing is difficult, such as remote communities.

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Of course, rapid tests need to be carefully studied, just like other home tests, he said, to better understand their accuracy and risk of false negatives. But the promise is there.

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“Some people have even discussed implanting this (rapid test) in the masks themselves for health workers, and could theoretically be pushed into communities,” Chagla said.

” Very exciting. ”

– With files from The Associated Press

Questions about COVID-19? Here are a few things you should know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or the flu. Some people can develop a more serious illness. Those most at risk are the elderly and people with serious chronic diseases such as heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop any symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend washing your hands frequently and coughing up your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible, and maintaining a distance of two meters from other people if you go out. In situations where you cannot keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend using a face mask or non-medical blanket to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or masks are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full coverage of COVID-19 from Global News, click here.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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