How And When To Get Tested If You Suspect You Have Coronavirus

Melanie Woods
·5 min read

Coronavirus is here. As of March 11, 2020, 93 cases have been confirmed in Canada, and the first confirmed death was announced earlier this week.

As Canada’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel 2019 coronavirus — continue to swell in number, so too do tests for the virus.

Odds are, you or someone you know will undergo testing for the coronavirus in the coming weeks as community transmission continues. According to a disease-transmission model developed by the University of Toronto, a sizeable chunk of the population is likely to contract the virus, even with modest health interventions from officials.

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While most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own, it’s still important to get tested and self-isolate accordingly in order to prevent the spread to more vulnerable populations.

So how do you know if you have it? Here are the steps you should follow if you think you might have contracted coronavirus.

1. Check your history

No matter your symptoms, if you were recently in close contact with someone confirmed to have the virus, it’s important to self-isolate and check in with health authorities.

Experts think that COVID-19 has an incubation period — meaning the time between exposure and when you start to feel sick — of upwards of 10 to 14 days. So even if you don’t feel bad, if you were in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s worth being cautious.

A dry cough is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.  (Photo: Jelena Danilovic via Getty Images)
A dry cough is one of the symptoms of COVID-19.  (Photo: Jelena Danilovic via Getty Images)

If you’ve recently travelled outside Canada, you should closely monitor your health for at least 14 days.

2. Check your symptoms

While some carriers are asymptomatic, certain symptoms could be a sign of the coronavirus. According to health officials, the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever and a dry cough. Other symptoms may include a headache, shortness of breath or diarrhea.

While many of these align with the common seasonal flu or colds, now that community transmission is more and more likely to increase, it’s important to check in with a health-care provider if you’re feeling sick.

3. Self-isolate

Yes, “self-isolate” means quarantine. It means do everything you can to not go outside or interact with other people, even if you have a mask. No matter how healthy you feel, if instructed to self-quarantine, it’s important you do so for the safety of those around you.

Watch: Canadians react to stockpiling supplies in response to coronavirus. Story continues below.

Avoid situations where you will come into contact with others, such as social gatherings and public transit. If you live with others, try to avoid using the same dishes and washroom, and regularly disinfect any shared surfaces and use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Experts recommend that if you do need to leave your home for an urgent errand, such as picking up essential medication, wear a mask.

Even if you don’t have coronavirus, this is still a best practice when sick.

4. Call your local health authority

Here are the province-specific resources you can reach out to in order to see if you need testing for the coronavirus. If deemed necessary, officials will then arrange testing or refer you to your local health-care provider for testing.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has also established a new toll-free phone line at 1-833-784-4397 to answer general questions about coronavirus.

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In Ontario, you can call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.

Quebec has opened specialized clinics to combat COVID-19. Anyone who suspects they have the virus can call 8-1-1 to set up an appointment at one of the clinics.

The number to call if you are experiencing symptoms in Manitoba is 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257.

For all other provinces and territories, calling 8-1-1 will direct you to officials who can confirm if you qualify for testing.

If you go in person to your doctor for testing, be sure to call ahead and alert them you will be coming, and wear a mask.

5. Listen to the experts

You may be instructed to go to your local health-care facility, or a health official may come to your residence for testing.

It’s likely to take a few days before your results come in. COVID-19 is diagnosed by a combination of symptoms and viral lab tests. During that time, continue to self-isolate according to instructions from health officials.

According to Health Canada, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19 and most people with mild coronavirus illness will recover on their own.

The vast majority of coronavirus tests come back negative — odds are you have the flu or a seasonal cold. Still, it’s important to check in to ensure not only your own health, but also the health of the community around you.

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