A leading GP said one of her patients took five antigen tests which all came back negative, despite having the Covid-19 virus.
r Mary Favier, who is also a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), has said that antigen testing is being used too often in the wrong environments.
“I had a patient last week – I’ve had several of these – who rang me up saying he had done antigen tests five days in a row, he had a head cold, a cough, a runny nose and now he wanted an antibiotic.
“I said, ‘you need a PCR test’ and he said, ‘no I don’t have Covid’. [I was] trying to explain that in actual fact it’s likely that he did and indeed his PCR test came back positive,” she told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.
Dr Favier said this situation is being replicated in GP clinics across the country and people should not rely on antigen tests if they are feeling unwell.
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“I’ve other ones where people have had one negative antigen test and a positive PCR, two negative antigen tests and a positive PCR. So, it’s people being falsely reassured,” she added.
According to Dr Favier, the concern for health officials is that people will see a negative antigen test and “go about their business”. She added that some of her patients admitted doing exactly that.
Dr Favier said sections of the population are still unclear about exactly how and when to use antigen tests and admitted that public health needs to communicate that message better.
“The bottom line is, if you have symptoms stay at home, isolate, get a PCR test and only use antigen tests if you’ve not symptoms and it enables you to go out and about,” she said.
Dr Favier added that if a person takes and antigen test and it comes back positive, then they should accept that they have the virus.
She explained the antigen tests only check for Covid-19 and following a positive result, people should book a PCR test and begin self-isolating.
In relation to findings from a recent INTO survey – which found that in the first two weeks of this month, a minimum of 3,726 pupils tested positive for Covid-19 – Dr Favier said these figures tally with what she is seeing in her practice.
She confirmed that a “huge amount” of her Covid-19 related work is around examining children and giving parent’s public health advice.
Dr Favier said the situation has been compounded by the high number of children catching respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) this winter.
“[RSV] is hugely prevalent this year – I’ve never seen so much of it. I’ve never seen it so early; we’ve never seen so many children so sick with it and admitted to hospital.
“The symptoms are very similar [to Covid-19], so it’s a big challenge for parents to know the difference, it’s a challenge for GPs to know the difference and testing unfortunately is the only way to find out. So, we have a busy winter ahead of us” she added.