Why some medical experts suggest new testing method for COVID-19 omicron variant

When it comes to the COVID-19 omicron variant, some medical experts say we may not be testing properly for the virus.

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Many people say they are developing symptoms of what may be a cold or what could be COVID, but they're testing negative on rapid antigen tests.

Some medical experts say that with the increase in sore throat symptoms associated with the omicron variant, doing a nasal swab may not catch it, but doing a throat swab can lead to a more accurate test result.

FOX 5 spoke to infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja from Johns Hopkins about this different way of testing.

"I do think that for people with symptoms in their throat, a throat swab is better able to detect the virus than just a nasal swab," he says. "I think that's always been the case, it just seems sore throats tend to be more common with omicron. If you're positive in the nose, that's great. But if you have a sore throat and you're negative, I think it does make sense to do a swab of your throat as well to be sure that your symptoms are not caused by COVID-19."

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FOX 5's Shirin Rajaee asked Dr. Adalja if this will change the way we test for COVID-19.

"It may change the way that we approach testing because what we want to do is make sure that we're getting the diagnosis correct and if we tell someone they don't have COVID and we just swab their nose and they've got a sore throat, I think we should be doing another swab or doing kind of a combination test," he says.

Federal guidance has not changed as to how to test for COVID-19, but many doctors are suggesting throat swabs for their patients, especially ones who have had sore throats, as Dr. Adalja says.

At-home antigen tests have been critical, but new data suggests that the omicron variant can be easier to miss on those tests.

"You have to look and gauge your symptoms and understand what the next step might be based upon how severe your symptoms are, what your risk factors are for severe disease, if you've been around people with influenza, for example, and then make decisions," Dr. Adalja says. "It's not going to one-size-fits-all, but in general, if you're symptomatic and testing negative from COVID, it could be a respiratory virus."


Dr. Adalja says rapid tests are not meant for throat swabs, but it can be done. However, you may need someone to help you to make sure it's done correctly.