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Danger of False Positives in COVID Testing

Posted on December 4, 2020

When a COVID-19 test mistakenly identifies a healthy person as having coronavirus, there could be serious implications, according to an article in the New York Times.

The article cited four consequences of receiving a false positive:

  1. Unnecessary isolation: Unnecessary isolation results in lost productivity at work or school and takes an emotional toll on the person isolating.
  2. Possible new outbreak: A possible new outbreak could occur if the healthy person is placed with others who have COVID-19.
  3. Missed or inappropriate treatment: If the patient does not have COVID, but actually has something else such as the flu, he/she may not receive treatment that could actually help.
  4. A false sense of security: There is a false sense of security that comes with thinking one has antibodies for the virus, which could lead to a person being more willing to be exposed to others with COVID-19.

Fox News reported that rapid antigen tests for COVID have been associated with false results. The FDA warned that false positives have occurred in nursing homes and other health care settings, possibly because the tests were handled incorrectly. These rapid tests must be read during a specified timeframe. Reading them before or after could produce a different result. Tests that are not stored properly also may skew the results. Processing several tests at once, and/or insufficiently cleaning the workspace, could result in cross-contamination. As a safeguard, the CDC recommends testing nursing home residents within 48 hours of a positive result just to be sure.

A medical misdiagnosis of any kind could lead to treatment – or lack of treatment – and physical harm. If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, it may help to talk to a Philadelphia attorney experienced in misdiagnosis lawsuits. Please contact us to arrange a convenient time to speak.