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Colorado Doctor: Rapid COVID Tests Are Less Reliable, Should Be Repeated

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - As we gather with loved ones for the holidays, it's important to remember that no COVID-19 test is 100% accurate.

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Dr. Lydia Fisher, an infectious disease specialist at the Medical Center of Aurora, says false results are more likely when using a rapid test versus a PCR test, which she says is much more sensitive at around 98% if you have symptoms.

"When it comes to the rapid tests, for people who are symptomatic, that's closer to 92, 93% sensitivity," said Dr. Fisher. "When you're asymptomatic, it actually drops down to the 70s, I think it's something like 76%."

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However, there are methods that could increase the sensitivity when using a rapid test, according to a recent study.

"They were able to show if you take these rapid tests every three days after exposure, it actually increases the sensitivity to about 98%, so that's on par with a PCR test," said Dr. Fisher.

After the holiday gatherings are over, even if you don't know that you were exposed to Covid, Dr. Fisher suggests getting tested as soon as possible. If you use a rapid test, she suggests getting another one three days later.

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Dr. Fisher says at-home testing can also be problematic, so pay close attention to the instructions so you can collect a good sample.

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