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Understanding different COVID-19 tests

DHEC encourages people to continue to get tested, but what tests are available?

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control released numbers of nearly 1,000 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. 

RELATED: Record-breaking 987 new virus cases in South Carolina

DHEC encourages people to continue to get tested, but what tests are available?

News 19 medical reporter Rosemarie Beltz works as a cardiovascular perfusionist in a COVID-19 unit.

"We want to concentrate on the diagnostic test for the coronavirus, which is the swab test. We also have the antibody test, and that's going to be an indicator if you contracted the virus," says Dr. Beltz.

The swab test, which tests for the active COVID-19 virus, is a long Q-tip that goes up your nose. Your nose should be swabbed for 15-20 seconds.

"Is it uncomfortable, yes, but it's nothing that you should be afraid of," says Beltz. "It's not a needle. It's uncomfortable, but not painful."

As for the antibody test, that can be a blood sample, but it's important to do it at the right time.

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"The virus, it takes about seven days to present in the body, but it takes about two weeks to create antibodies," says Beltz. "So, if you take that test at a time when you don't know when you were exposed ... you could've been exposed but test negative because your body just hasn't had the time to build up the antibodies. That's the confusion with this test."

There's still so much that the medical community doesn't know about the virus, but if you're getting tested, it's important to ask the right questions.

"All you can do as someone who wants to get tested is make sure that you know what you are getting tested for," says Beltz. "Don't be afraid to say these are my symptoms, I don't have symptoms, this is why I want  to get tested. And with all of that, still wear a mask and socially distance."

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