Test for Current Infection
Viral Tests 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 do not detect antibodies which would suggest a previous infection and they do not measure your level of immunity.
- Viral tests can be performed in a laboratory, at a testing site, at home or anywhere else.
Viral Test Types
- Laboratory and Rapid Point-of-Care tests are performed in Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)-certified facilities to ensure quality of testing.
- Laboratory tests can take days to complete and include RT-“PCR” tests and other types of nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs).
- Rapid Point-of-Care tests can be performed in minutes and can include antigen tests, some NAATs, and other tests.
- Self-Tests are rapid tests that can be taken at home or anywhere as long as the instructions are followed.
Learn more about the types of COVID-19 tests.
When to Get Tested
Review the scenarios below to determine when to get tested. If you have had COVID-19 in the past 90 days and recovered, you do not need to be tested unless you develop new symptoms. If you develop new symptoms, isolate immediately and get tested. Continue to stay home until you know the results. Wear a well-fitted mask around others.
YES: Get tested immediately. Follow quarantine guidance while waiting for results.
NO: See Step 2.
YES: Get tested at least 5 days after exposure. Follow quarantine guidance while waiting to test.
NO: See Step 3.
Outside of United States:
- All travelers: Follow destination requirements.
- If not up to date with your vaccines, get tested as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before your trip.
To the United States:
- Air passengers (2 years or older): Before boarding a flight to the United States, you must show a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before travel or Documentation of Recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. Foreign nationals have an additional requirement for proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
- All travelers: Get tested 3-5 days after arrival in the United States.
Within the United States:
- All travelers: Follow all state, tribal, local, and territorial health recommendations and requirements at your destination.
- If not up to date with your vaccines, get tested as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before your trip, and 3-5 days after travel.
NOTE: Cruise travel has different guidance. See Cruise Ship Travel During COVID-19.
- Reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 by getting tested as close to the event date as possible.
- Self-tests are one of several options for testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 and may be more convenient than laboratory-based tests and point-of-care tests.
Where Can I Get a Test?
Laboratory or Rapid Point-of-Care Tests
- Many pharmacies and community centers provide access to free COVID-19 tests. Visit Community-Based Testing Centersexternal icon or the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) website to find testing locations in your area.
- Order free tests at COVIDtests.govexternal iconexternal icon. Free tests are also available through local health departments.
- Buy tests online or in pharmacies and retail stores. Private health insurance may reimburse the cost of purchasing self-tests. Visit FDA’s websiteexternal icon for a list of authorized tests.
- If you’re not able to obtain a self-test when you need it, you might also visit a community testing site, or call your local health department for more options.
What Your Test Results Mean
The test detected the virus and you have an infection.
- Stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home.
- Tell your close contacts.
- Wear a well-fitted mask when around others. If available, a N95 or KN95 respirator is recommended.
- Watch for symptoms. If you have any emergency warning signs, seek emergency care immediately.
- Tell your healthcare provider. Contact them as soon as possible if:
The test did not detect the virus, but doesn’t rule out an infection.
- If you have a negative test, but have symptoms of COVID-19:
- You may have COVID-19, but tested before the virus was detectable, or you may have another illness, such as the flu.
- Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your test result, recommendations for quarantine or isolation, or your symptoms, especially if they worsen.
- If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 but were a close contact to someone with COVID-19, and you tested negative 5 days after exposure:
- The virus was not detected. You are likely not infected, but an infection cannot be completely ruled out.
- Follow CDC’s Quarantine and Isolation guidance, including monitoring for symptoms and wearing a well-fitting mask.
- 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.