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Epidemiological experts caution COVID-19 rapid test results

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Throughout much of the pandemic, Maritimers have relied on rapid tests to help them track the spread of COVID-19, but some epidemiological experts are cautioning the results might not reveal the full picture.

University of Saskatchewan professor and epidemiologist, Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, says users should be cautious when reading results.

"[Rapid tests are] an imperfect tool, as important as it is, it’s an imperfect tool," says Dr. Muhajarine. "Particularly during Omicron, particularly during the subvariants of BA.2 and BA.1."

Dr. Muhajarine says Maritimers and other Canadians should keep a supply of rapid tests on-hand, use them "smartly and frequently" and when they do, swab the throat, cheeks and nostrils.

"If you are asymptomatic but were potentially exposed, I would do that rapid test quite frequently," says Muhajarine.

"I would do, for example, two tests after the second day, certainly after 24 hours of being possibly exposed. So, within 24 to 48 hours, I’ll do that first test, if it’s negative I do another test, another 24 hours apart."

It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by the outgoing scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table, Dr. Peter Juni.

"Don’t trust rapid tests, we don’t know how this works with BA.2," says Dr. Juni. "If it’s negative once, not enough – it needs to be at least twice."

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