Here's The Test Everyone Needs to Keep Schools Open and Protect Families As Texas Cases Surge

Dr. Jeff Livingston

BinaxNow rapid-response Covid-19 Test is a must-have item at home
Woman taking a home Covid test.Photo: Dragana991 Istock/Getty Images

If you are like me, the barrage of news about Texas's surging Covid-19 cases caused by the Delta gets in our heads. Every cough, headache, or sniffle triggers a thought in my head, “Do I have Covid?”

It is hard now to worry when Texas Covid cases look like this:

I know I am not alone. Every day at least one friend sends me a text message asking how to get a Covid test. Home testing is an easy solution to help people decide if they can go to work or take the kids to school. Home Covid tests also give us the peace of mind to know we are not carrying the virus.  

The BinaxNOW Covid-19 Antigen Card offered by Abbott Labs is an at-home test available for purchase at most pharmacies. My fully-vaxxed family keeps one box at home at all times to help us make responsible decisions. We want to stay safe, but we want to ensure we do not infect anyone else if we contract the virus. 

The most important action we can take to stay safe and to protect others is to get a vaccine against Covid-19. But as Covid cases surge across the US, breakthrough cases will occur. A breakthrough case is when someone who has already been vaccinated tests positive for Covid-19. 

To slow the spread of Covid-19, protect others, and prevent the emergence of new variants, we must use all the tools in our toolbelt. Accurate, rapid home tests provide reliable results as fast as possible to help us keep our businesses open, reopen schools and help fight the pandemic spread.

BinaxNow is a step in the right direction.

In scientific terms, the BinaxNow test is a lateral flow immunoassay that detects the nucleocapsid protein antigen from SARS-CoV-2. In simples terms, it works like a home pregnancy test

This test is approved for symptomatic and asymptomatic people under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization. Anyone can use this test at home and get reliable results within 15 minutes. 

Prices vary depending on the store. I found them for $19 at Walmart and $23 at CVS and Walgreens.

Here are the valuable BinaxNow features:

  1. Fast results. Abbott’s rapid antigen test provides results within 15 minutes.
  2. Accurate results. The test is highly accurate when testing symptomatic patients within seven days of the onset of symptoms. The data reported to the FDA shows a sensitivity of 97.1% and a specificity of 98.5% among people who have symptoms of Covid-19. 
  3. Pain-free nasal swab. This technology does not require the tickle-your-brain deep nasopharyngeal swab like the PCR tests. A simple, painless nose swab is used to collect the testing specimen about 1/2 inch into the nostril.
  4. Users may choose to upload the results to the Navica app to meet international travel requirements. 

BinaxNow can detect multiple variants of Covid-19, including the delta variant. The company website reports, “Abbot conducted a computational analysis of the detection of multiple SARS-COV-2 strains, including the Delta variant, and predicts no impact to the performance of our BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Antigen Self Test.”

The test results will show as positive or negative. BinaxNow will not determine which variant is causing the positive result.
BinaxNow home testImage CC Abbot labs website

What Covid-19 tests are available now?

There are three categories of Covid-19 tests. Each works in different ways to detect evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

  1. Antibody testing detects a past infection and potential immunity. People developed antibodies after natural Covid infection or after immunization. 
  2. Molecular testing(PCR) detects genetic material from the virus to determine if someone has the virus right now. PCR testing is the gold standard of testing. 
  3. Antigen testing detects the fragmented pieces of the virus that trigger an immune response. Like PCR testing, antigen testing is used to detect an active infection but can be done much faster. 

BinaxNow uses antigen detection. Antigen testing is less accurate than PCR testing. Antigen tests look for pieces of the virus. They are less accurate than traditional molecular PCR testing, which looks for the virus’s genetic material.

The test offers tremendous value because it can be done at home without having to go to a doctor, hospital, or lab. With results available in 15 minutes, families can make real-time decisions regarding their behavior.

The recommendation is to repeat the BinaxNow test after 36 hours. This dual testing strategy helps overcome the slightly lower detection rate of antigen testing over PCR testing. Each testing kit comes with two tests to make the process easy. 

How do you perform a BinaxNow home Covid test?

Home testing is quick and easy. This video walks users through an easy-to-follow step-by-step process.

Instructions for use:

  1. Wash and dry your hands. 
  2. Take one test, one bottle, one swab, and the 15-minute timer.
  3. Lay the card flat on a table. 
  4. Verify there is a blue line in the control line of the results window to verify the test is functional 
  5. Open the test card and avoid touching the test strip. 
  6. Place six drops from the dropper bottle into the top hole.
  7. Collect the samples by inserting the swab 1/2 inch into the nostril, making five circles over 15 seconds. Repeat the process in the other nostril.
  8. Insert the swab tip into the second hole and slide up until you see the swab tip in the first hole. Make three clockwise circles and leave the swab in place while the test performs.
Binaxnox testing instructions.Image CC Abbott labs consumer site

9. Close the test card and press down on the right edge to seal it.

10. Wait 15 minutes to check the results. 

A positive result will have two lines and look like this example taken from the company website.
Example of results window from BinaxNowImage CC Abbott labs consumer site

We all must do our part to help protect ourselves and others. Every person can help slow the spread by taking practical steps to protect themselves and others. 

Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to keep yourself safe. For those who do not believe they need a Covid-19 vaccine for their protection, we ask you to get a vaccine to protect others and prevent the emergence of new dangerous variants. 

A virus that can not spread can not mutate. Children who are too young to get a vaccine and immunocompromised people need your help. Wearing a mask and washing our hands are two other tools we can use to slow the spread.

Home Antigen testing is an excellent option to help us assess our risk. Anytime we have symptoms, we can get accurate results in 15 minutes. These tests help us make real-time decisions about going to work or sending our children to school.

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Dr. Jeff Livingston is nationally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer, blogger and practicing physician who is considered an expert in the use of social media to educate patients, using new and innovative technology to improve care outcomes and the patient experience. He is a prating Obgyn and serves as the CEO of MacArthur Medical Center. Dr. Jeff is the co-founder of the health website and an active blogger on Medium.

Irving, TX

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