CM – How antigen tests could be used to find children with Covid-19 in school



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Eilish O’Regan Twitter Email

Rapid antigen tests can finally be given the green light, even to a limited extent, to find out if elementary school children have Covid-19. It would be the ultimate victory for the many who have advocated broader support for much of the pandemic.

The arguments against these tests are now well rehearsed. They’re not as accurate as the gold standard PCR test, and a false negative result could mean someone is less likely to take Covid-19 precautions.

Proponents of antigen testing say it’s a useful tool, among other things to reduce the risk of someone who has the virus and is infectious going to the workplace or socializing and passing it on to others.

If they are used in schools how would that work and what do we know about the results of pilot projects in childcare facilities and other institutions?

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has announced that they may still be used in schools on children who have no symptoms but have been in close contact with another student who is positive has been tested for Covid-19.

It is likely that almost the same system would apply to children that the HSE does for fully vaccinated close contacts e symptoms was introduced.

They got a pack of tests from the HSE and their parents took the test three times every other day at home. The result will be available in 15 to 30 minutes.

If the result is positive, the child should stay away from school and take a PCR test. It’s seen as a way to find kids ages five to twelve who are positive.

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The benefit of using antigen tests is that some children who are Covid-19 positive can be detected. These children may not have symptoms and could unknowingly pass the virus on at school, at home, or while playing without the antigen tests.

The tests also mean that children with close contacts do not automatically lose 10 days of schooling like the old one System, which was discontinued in late September.

But while there is nothing simple about staying safe in the pandemic, there are some lessons to be kept in mind when using them.

Instructions for inserting a swab into the child’s nostrils are recommended to obtain a good specimen for testing. A useful video is on the HSE website. Parents may have to deal with a reluctant child.

Antigen tests are not as accurate as a PCR test, but when done when a person is most contagious, they can be about 80 percent reliable.

They work best in symptomatic people about three to five days after exposure to the virus. But the children tested in Irish elementary schools would only be those with no symptoms. Those with symptoms will need a PCR test.

There is good insight into pilot antigen testing in daycare, nursing homes, and HSE colleges. Anyone who had a positive antigen test in day care centers and colleges had the result confirmed as correct with a PCR test.

As of last week, 3,500 results were reported in nursing homes, two of them positive. The tests were carried out on staff in nursing homes. At this point, there were no outbreaks in the affected facilities.

Feedback included praise for ease of use, and the swabs were « much less uncomfortable » than nasopharyngeal swabs. Participation rates varied from 100pc to 15-20pc.

One of the disadvantages is the administrative burden of registering people, distributing test kits and then reminding them to continue testing and reporting results online to the HSE.




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