Test for Current Infection
Viral tests are used to look for current infection
A viral test checks specimens from your nose or your mouth to find out if you are currently infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. Viral tests can be performed in a laboratory, at a testing site, or at home or anywhere else. Two types of viral tests are used: nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests.
covid test icon Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests: Order 4 free tests now so you have them when you need them.external icon
The following people should get tested for COVID-19:
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
- People who have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19 should be tested to check for infection at least 5 days after they last had close contact with someone with COVID-19. The date of the last close contact is considered day 0.
- People who are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines who are prioritized for expanded community screening for COVID-19.
- People regardless of vaccination status who have been asked or referred to get testing by their school, workplace, healthcare provider, state, tribal, localexternal icon or territorial health department.
Who does not need to be tested
The following people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 do not need to get tested if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms:
- People who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 3 months and recovered, as long as they do not develop new symptoms, do not need to get tested.
The COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool is an interactive web tool designed to help both healthcare providers and individuals understand COVID-19 testing options. This tool helps healthcare providers quickly access the most relevant, actionable information to determine what type(s) of COVID-19 testing they should recommend to patients. The tool helps individuals determine what type of test they should seek. After test results are in, the tool can help interpret test results and guide next steps.
The online, mobile-friendly tool asks a series of questions, and provides recommended actions and resources based on the user’s responses.
How to get a viral test
- Visit your state, tribal, localexternal icon, or territorial health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing.
- Visit your healthcare or public health department clinic provider to get a self-collection kit or self-test.
- You and your healthcare provider might consider either self-collection kit or a self-test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and can’t get tested by a healthcare provider.
Positive viral test
If you test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, take the following steps to protect others regardless of your COVID-19 vaccination status:
- Isolate for at least 5 days. You can end isolation after 5 full days if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved (Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation). Day 0 is your first day of symptoms. You can also use a test-based strategy to end isolation.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 and never develop symptoms, isolate for at least 5 days and wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public for an additional 5 days. Day 0 is the day the sample was collected for a positive test result.
- Wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public for 5 additional days after the end of your 5-day isolation period. Take additional precautions on days 6-10, such as avoiding travel and situations where you will come in contact with individuals at high risk for severe disease. If you are unable to wear a mask when around others, you should continue to isolate for 10 days.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for isolation.
- Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you are more likely to get very sick because of being an older adult or having underlying medical conditions or if your symptoms get worse.
Talk to your healthcare provider or local health department to find out how long to isolate if you:
- Are severely ill with COVID-19 or have a weakened immune system;
- Had a positive test result followed by a negative result; or
- Test positive for many weeks after the initial result.
Negative viral test
If you test negative for the virus that causes COVID-19, the virus was not detected.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19:
- You may have received a false negative test result and still might have COVID-19. You should isolate away from others.
- Contact your healthcare provider about your symptoms, especially if they worsen, about follow-up testing, and how long to isolate.
If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, and you were a close contact to someone with COVID-19:
- You are likely not infected, but you still may get sick.
- Quarantine if you are not vaccinated or have not completed a primary vaccine series, or if you have not received all recommended booster shots.
- If symptoms develop during home quarantine, contact your healthcare provider about follow-up testing; and
- Isolate at home separated away from others.
If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and do not have a known exposure to a person with COVID-19:
- You do not need to quarantine.