As reported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this past Tuesday, the rapid tests for the COVID-19 virus just may be far less effective when it comes to trying to detect the new Omicron variant than an earlier strain of the virus.
“The finding was gleaned from preliminary studies conducted by the FDA in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health’s RADx program on the performance of the at-home tests on the heavily mutated Omicron variant,” stated the New York Post in a report.
“Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity” in regards to detecting positive cases, stated the FDA in a statement released on Tuesday. “The FDA and RADx are continuing to further evaluate the performance of antigen tests using patient samples with live virus”
However, the FDA has, as of yet, not urged anyone to avoid the use of these less than effective antigen tests.
“The FDA continues to authorize the use of these tests as directed in the authorized labeling and individuals should continue to use them in accordance with the instructions included with the tests,” stated the FDA. “Antigen tests are generally less sensitive and less likely to pick up very early infections compared to molecular tests.”
Despite this, the FDA did try to urge the use of follow-up testing for anyone who receives a negative test result while using a rapid antigen test but feel as though they are still experiencing symptoms. “If a person tests positive with an antigen test, they should self-isolate and seek follow-up care with a health care provider to determine the next steps,” stated officials with the FDA.
They reiterate that many people who come down with the virus may just never know they had it. One recent study stated that while the new Omicron variant could see infection in over 140 million Americans by March, the vast majority of those infections will end up being entirely asymptomatic.
“We are expecting an enormous surge in infections … so, an enormous spread of Omicron,” stated the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Dr. Chris Murray, reported USA Today.
“Total infections in the U.S. we forecast are going from about 40% of the U.S. having been infected so far, to having in the next two to three months, 60% of the U.S. getting infected with Omicron,” he claimed.
However, groups of researchers at the institute stated that while the new variant seems to be far more contagious than the previous Delta variant, it does not seem to be anywhere near as strong. They have made the prediction that Omicron will lead to drastically fewer deaths and hospitalizations. “Omicron’s hospitalization rate is about 90 to 96 percent lower than Delta, which rampaged through much of the US in August,” reported the Daily Mail last Thursday.
It has also been stated that up to almost 90% of people who will contract the new variant will never even realize that they were infected with Omicron.
“The majority will show no symptoms and have fewer hospitalizations and deaths compared to previous surges as Omicron is believed to be milder,” reported the U.K. news outlet