With Maine announcing its first two cases of the coronavirus in the past week, some of you may be wondering what it takes to be tested for the illness it causes, COVID-19.
Based on federal guidance, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a number of recommendations for anyone asking themselves those questions, either because they aren’t feeling well, have been traveling recently or have come into contact with someone who has been traveling.
Call a health care provider first, do not just show up in person
To prevent the spread of the disease, the biggest recommendation is that you call ahead to a medical provider, whether it’s a family doctor, an urgent care clinic or an emergency room, so you can be screened for the disease. Officials strongly advise that you not show up in person because of how contagious the illness can be.
Will they allow me to be tested?
A provider should then screen you for a test. They will ask you where you have traveled, who you have been in contact with and what symptoms you’ve been feeling. If you have symptoms such as a cough, fever or shortness of breath, a clinician will then decide whether to call you in for a test based on your history.
How will I be tested?
If a doctor agrees to test you, you may be placed in an isolated room or a satellite facility. You may also be tested from your car. Providers will then use swabs to take samples from your nose and throat. Those samples will then be sent for processing, either at the Maine CDC’s offices in Augusta or at a private laboratory that has qualified to process the tests.
What happens to my samples?
Once they arrive at the laboratory, technicians will place your sample in a device called an extractor that removes particles that can undergo DNA testing. The results are then generally produced and sent back to your provider within 48 hours.
A doctor will provide appropriate guidance about treatment and whether you should isolate yourself based on the results. If you test positive, investigators will send your sample to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Atlanta for another test to confirm the result.
They will also probably contact you to ask detailed questions about where you have been and who else you’ve been in contact with.
Where can I get more information about the process?
More information is available at the Maine CDC website or by calling a Maine CDC hotline at 866-811-569.