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Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Antigen testing gives COVID-19 results in minutes instead of days

Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas have been using rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 for a month and results can be read in just 15 minutes.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — It’s a newer type of test for COVID-19 that gives results within minutes instead of days or even weeks.

“If you’re really looking to control the spread of the virus, the faster you know who has it, then the easier it is to control it,” said pediatric physician Dr. Stacy Furlow.

Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas have been using the Sophia Rapid Antigen testing machines to test for COVID-19 since mid-July. Dr. Furlow says this test is very similar to a strep or flu test and the results are back within 15 minutes.

“You can definitely trust a positive test, that it’s a true positive," she said. "Sometimes with a negative test we’ll send a backup PCR just depending on the clinician’s decision, but it’s been very very helpful."

Dr. Furlow says patients really need to have symptoms in order to use the antigen test instead of the PCR COVID-19 tests.

“We anticipate as school gets started and as the fall comes on and we have a lot more respiratory illness with children in our community that this is going to be a vital tool for us to try and control spread and to help people get home and stay home earlier in their course of disease,” she said.

The Arkansas Department of Health says there are 100 antigen testing machines that they have ordered that they plan to use at the local health units across the state. 

Acting chief medical officer, Dr. Appathurai Bala says antigen testing really helps with their case investigating and contact tracing since they have such a quick turnaround time.

“We want anyone with the symptoms to come forward and get tested and anyone who are in contact with anybody who is a known positive and need to come get tested," he said. "Generally, besides these priority populations, we are open to the general public if they have concerns and want to get tested."

Most insurance companies are covering antigen testing for patients. The ADH says antigen testing results are not included in the daily number of cases given by the ADH and are considered presumptive positive and those results will be released once a week.