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Over-the-counter COVID testing kits in high demand, but how are accurate are they?

At-home test kits can let you know in a matter of minutes if you have COVID- 19. They can be bought online or from drugstores.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Right now, the demand for COVID-19 tests is at an all-time high. The Shelby County Health Department reported 6,893 people were tested on Tuesday--the most in a single day since this past winter. Folks in Shelby County can either wait days to book a covid test appointment or gamble waiting in a long line. Others however are simply choosing to do an at-home test.

At-home test kits can let you know in a matter of minutes if you have COVID- 19. It's not fully approved by the FDA and can be bought online or from drugstores, so we asked Doctor Stephen Threlkeld how accurate this method is. 

"You have to realize, anyone from tests from those is not going to be definitive because you will miss a substitutional number of those cases," Threlkeld said.

Here's what else you need to know about over-the-counter home tests, they are rapid antigen tests, meaning they can detect certain proteins in the virus. There are three common brands:

1.   Abbott Binax Now 

2.   Eellume COVID-19 home test 

3.   Quidel QuickVue

and according to their clinical study, the accuracy varies. Abbott Binax Now's clinical study its brand is about 84% accurate at detecting positive cases and 98 percent accurate at detecting negative cases.

Ellume's accuracy is based on if the person is symptomatic or asymptomatic. the brand's clinical study shows their tests are about 96% accurate if you have symptoms and 91 percent accurate if you don't. 

Quidel Quickvue's clinical study shows its tests are about 83% accurate at detecting positive tests and 99% accurate at detecting negative cases. 

"So they are much more likely to be used as a screening sort of issue, may need to do it multiple times," he said.

While the lines might be long, and the results could take a few days, Threlkeld recommends PCR testing if you want a more accurate result. 

Since the home tests are in demand right now, they are not easy to find. People needing to get tested should call a testing facility first thing in the morning and make an appointment for their next available opening.

Here is the Shelby County Health Department #COVID19 update for Wednesday, September 1, 2021. For more information, please visit https://shelby.community/ for access to the COVID-19 Data page.

Posted by Shelby County Health Department on Wednesday, September 1, 2021

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