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why some people with symptoms don’t get tested

Writer : Mark Graham, Analysis Affiliate in Well being Knowledge, King’s Faculty London

Testing individuals with COVID signs has been a pillar of the UK’s pandemic response, lowering transmission by figuring out and isolating these with the virus. However to be efficient, it depends on individuals with signs getting examined, which raises an apparent query: what quantity of symptomatic individuals really take a check?

The ZOE COVID Research, which is funded by the federal government and run by a gaggle together with King’s Faculty London and the town’s Man’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, is uniquely positioned to reply this query. Every day greater than Four million members within the UK report any signs they’re feeling by way of the research’s app, and file the outcomes of any current COVID exams.

Testing guidelines have developed throughout the pandemic, however one rule has remained constant: in case you have one of many important three signs of COVID listed by the NHS (fever, a persistent new cough, or lack of style or scent) however don’t in any other case know in case you have the virus, you must take a PCR check. And by analysing the research’s knowledge, my colleagues and I’ve been capable of see what quantity of members experiencing any of those signs then go on to have a check shortly after their signs seem.

The outcomes had been shocking. In December 2020 we discovered that 25% of those that reported one of many three core signs didn’t report a PCR consequence shortly afterwards, suggesting they weren’t getting examined. This was regardless of there being loads of spare testing capability on the time.

Armed with this info, we then despatched out a survey to a pattern of 4,000 customers within the UK who had had signs however no check, to raised perceive why they didn’t get examined. We discovered this was largely down to a few causes.

A woman with fever checking her temperature
Some individuals selected to not get examined in the event that they solely had one symptom.
Cat Field/Shutterstock

Firstly, individuals had been much less more likely to get examined if they’d solely one of many three signs or if their signs lasted solely a day. This implies individuals might need the misguided view that their sickness is unlikely to be COVID if their signs are transient or gentle.

We additionally discovered that 40% of our respondents couldn’t determine all three of the signs that qualify you to get a COVID check. Older teams had been much less more likely to know: 80% of respondents aged 25-34 may determine all three signs, however simply 25% of these 75 and over may.

Plus, even when people knew they need to get a check, we discovered they weren’t all the time capable of. Of those who needed however did not get one, the most typical cause offered was, “I didn’t know the place to go in an effort to get examined”. Different frequent causes had been “I used to be not capable of get to a testing location” and “I attempted to get a check however was not capable of get one”.

Collectively, these outcomes exhibit that information is usually a barrier to getting examined for COVID. Folks might not know that their gentle sickness may nonetheless be COVID, they might not realise that their signs imply they need to get a check, and even when they need a check, they might not know how you can get one.

Increasing the symptom listing

These findings may have huge penalties. It’s necessary that we determine and isolate as many instances of COVID as attainable to assist scale back the unfold of the illness. Those who don’t get examined might proceed their day by day lives, unwittingly infecting individuals at residence and at work.

A person with tissues and remedies for a cold
Chilly-like signs – corresponding to a runny nostril and sore throat – are actually frequent with omicron.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Our outcomes present that educating the general public is essential for rising check take-up. Efforts must be made to tell the general public that even gentle signs will be COVID, to show them what these signs are, and the way they may get examined. It’d assist to focus on this messaging at older populations, who’re much less more likely to know what signs qualify them for a check.

Lately, there have been calls to broaden the listing of signs that qualify somebody for a COVID check, primarily based on proof that with variants corresponding to omicron and delta, many contaminated individuals have signs apart from the core three. Whereas this method could also be wise, our outcomes point out that in depth efforts can be wanted to coach the general public about any new set of signs to make sure that individuals experiencing them do get examined.


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