Symptoms and Testing: COVID-19 - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Symptoms and Testing: COVID-19

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Testing for COVID-19
Testing for COVID-19 antibodies


  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms.
  • Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
Is it COVID-19?
Minnesota's tool with symptoms and when to seek medical help.

Testing for COVID-19

Who should get tested

  • People who have symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested. Talk to your health care provider.
  • In general, people who do not have symptoms should not be tested for COVID-19. However, public health may recommend that people who do not have symptoms get tested in certain situations. These could include:
    • People who are told by public health workers that they were in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or are connected to a setting where an outbreak is occurring.
    • Before certain medical procedures.
Should I Get Tested for COVID-19?
Minnesota's screening tool to help you determine if you should be tested for COVID-19.

Where to get tested

  • Most clinics and hospitals across the state have the ability to collect samples (specimens) for lab testing.
    • Call ahead before going to the clinic or hospital to be tested. Not all clinics test people who do not have symptoms.
Find Testing Locations
Minnesota's map of testing locations for COVID-19. Discover a testing location near you.

Getting your test results

  • The clinic that did your testing will get the results to you.
  • It can take several days for test results to come back.
      • While you are waiting for your test results, you should stay home and separate yourself from other people in your home as much as possible. Wash your hands often and clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Do not call MDH to get your test results.

Testing for COVID-19 antibodies

Antibody tests, also called serology tests, can be used to tell if someone may have had SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The timing of when someone gets a test and the type of test used can affect how accurate the test is.

We still do not know how well these tests work. None of the tests on the market have been fully studied and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, the FDA and federal health and human services have given some of the tests special, temporary approval to test for antibodies.

Accurate test results can tell someone if they have antibodies against a coronavirus. People with the antibodies may be protected against getting infected with COVID-19 again. However, we do not know yet if these people really are protected. If they are protected, we do not know yet how long they are protected. Test results will help those studying the disease learn more about if and how long someone is protected.

It can be helpful for public health workers to find out what percentage of people who did not have symptoms or had very mild symptoms may have had the virus. This information will help determine how the virus can spread from someone who does not appear to be sick.

Accurate testing may also make it possible one day for people with the antibodies to donate their plasma to fight COVID-19. Studies are ongoing to see if plasma with these antibodies can help very sick people recover from the disease.

How antibody tests work

Blood is drawn for an antibody test. An accurate antibody test can tell if someone had an infection in the past, not if someone is sick now. Our bodies make antibodies to fight infections. It usually takes one to three weeks to make antibodies after being infected with COVID-19; it may take some people longer. If antibodies are found in the blood, a person may have come in contact with a certain virus. If someone is tested too soon, their body may not have had time to build up the antibodies that the test is trying to find.

What test results mean

A positive test result does not always mean you have had COVID-19 disease. A negative result does not always mean that you have never had COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. However, SARS-CoV-2 is just one of many types of coronavirus. Current antibody tests may not be specific to SARS-CoV-2. This means that if you have antibodies from any coronavirus, you may test positive.

Whether or not you have had a positive antibody test, MDH recommends that everyone do everything they can to stop the spread of COVID-19: stay home as much as you can; wear facemasks in public and stay 6 feet away from others; wash your hands a lot; avoid touching your face with unwashed hands; and cover your cough with your shoulder or arm.

What antibody tests cannot tell us

An antibody test cannot tell someone if they currently have COVID-19. It can only tell someone if they may have had it in the past. A different lab test is used to tell if someone has it at the moment.

Antibody tests cannot tell if someone can get COVID-19 again. We do not know yet how long antibodies for the virus that causes COVID-19 last or if they can keep people from getting it again.

The Minnesota Department of Health recommends that the best use for antibody tests is to study what percent of people may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Getting an antibody test

It is best to talk to your doctor or other health care provider about whether you should get an antibody test. Be careful if you are offered antibody tests, especially online. Some tests on the market are fake. Some people selling them are scammers. Some online offers are connected to computer malware.

Updated Friday, 10-Jul-2020 12:28:02 CDT