In the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health systems were still groping how to deal with it, the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to issue not less than 30 emergency use authorizations for various kinds of tests to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections. Eventually, the more sensitive real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests became accepted as the gold standard of COVID-19 testing.

However, a lot of people were incorrectly diagnosed as either false positive or false negative

What Causes Inaccurate Test Results

In a study done by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it said the reliability of RT-PCR tests depends on two main factors, which are sensitivity and specificity. According to the chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the University of California (UC) Health Center, sensitivity here refers to the sensitivity of the test used to detect the genetic component of the coronavirus given in a certain viral load sample. 

The testing sample is usually acquired from a swab taken from the nose and mouth. It’s possible for an infected person to have a ‘low viral load’ in the first few days from the date they were infected. On the other hand, viral load can also go down towards the end of the infection window. 

Antigen testing, another type of test, can be unreliable because of its ‘low sensitivity’ rate. It might not be able to correctly detect the presence of the virus in a patient’s system.

False Sense Of Security

False negatives have created a false sense of security among people who are unknowingly infected by the virus. It’s either they became carriers, exposing their loved ones and colleagues to the virus, or they weren’t able to get the appropriate treatment to address their health condition properly. 

While it is less common, getting a false positive can also be inconvenient. A patient will be forced to self-isolate and recover either in a facility or hospital, even when there’s no need. Not to mention the mental distress they have to endure, for worrying about their health status.

With that said, some people even considered filing lawsuits. You can check over here to know whether you have grounds to sue.

If you think you received an inaccurate result in a recent test, here are some suggestions about what you can do.

  • Have Yourself Tested Again

One of the things you could do is consider submitting yourself to another test. If you only took an antigen test the first time, consider going thru the RT-PCR test this time. You could also help the examining physician by telling them about any symptoms which you might have experienced, to give them the full clinical picture. 

Re-testing can not only give you peace of mind and a sense of assurance, but it can also help determine which steps are necessary to do next. For instance, if your second test result came back positive, proper treatment can be administered to you, avoiding further complications.

  • Continue Practicing Health And Safety Protocols

Getting a false-negative could mean that you are a potential carrier of the virus. If not careful, you can increase the risk of transmitting the virus to those who are around you- your family, friends, and colleagues. If you got a false negative, consider doing a manual contact tracing yourself. Start by notifying those people who you got in contact with. This way, they can be informed and can do the necessary measures to combat the virus.

On the other hand, getting a false positive could mean that you aren’t infectious. However, the guidelines still apply. You still have to be careful, as you are still at risk of getting infected by the virus. 

Whether you have symptoms or not is immaterial. Continue to take steps to protect yourself and the community around you. Continue practicing health protocols such as wearing a mask, keeping physical distancing of at least 1 meter, frequently sanitizing your hands, covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and self-isolation especially when symptoms start to show. 

  • Consult A Lawyer 

Getting an incorrect test result can be confusing and can even cause inconvenience to our lives. Not only can it cause mental and emotional distress, but in some cases, it may even lead to fatal repercussions.

For instance, false information regarding your health can put your family members at risk, especially if they have comorbidities or if they are considered high-risk. With that said, you can consider seeking legal advice to help you understand the situation better and work out the best approach to handle your case.



Maybe you think you potentially got exposed to the virus, or maybe you’re starting to feel symptoms slowly manifest, getting tested for COVID-19 is the best way to ensure that your health is in good condition. But in some cases, tests can be inaccurate. It can be frustrating and problematic, as it can create confusion, and worse, a false sense of security about your health status.

Whether you got a false negative or false positive, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your community is to continue practicing health protocols. By continuing to do your part, you’re not only helping stop the spread of the virus, but you also get to protect yourself and your loved ones.