Testing “as many people as possible” is vital to helping fight the coronavirus pandemic, 11 directors of some of the various National Institutes of Health said Tuesday.
Their joint blog post contradicts recently changed guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicates that not everyone who believes they have been exposed needs to be tested.
“Get tested if you believe you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19,” the NIH heads write in the blog post. “Testing, particularly of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, is key to interrupting this spread.”
CDC guidance about testing was changed last month to indicate that not everyone who has been near or with someone with coronavirus needs to be tested. A senior federal health official told CNN this was because of pressure from the Trump administration.
“Unfortunately, there still is a lot of confusion about where to get a test and who should get tested,” the NIH directors said.
“It is becoming clear that for a person to test positive, they have to have a significant amount of the virus in their system. This means that if you have no symptoms but think or were told that you were in contact with a person with COVID-19, you should isolate yourself immediately, call your health care provider, and then get a test.”
Testing is the cornerstone of the basic public health approach for controlling disease outbreaks: contact tracing. “Testing can help people determine if they are infected with SARS-CoV-2 – regardless of whether they have symptoms – and whether they are at risk of spreading the infection to others. Taking measures to prevent the spread of infection will be the most effective strategy for getting us safely back to work and school,” the directors wrote.
Those signing the blog post include the directors of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; the National Library of Medicine; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute on Aging; National Institute of General Medical Sciences; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research; National Institute of Nursing Research; and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.