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COVID-19 screening vs. testing: What’s the difference?

A doctor asks her patient screening questions.

Screening and testing are two common terms being referenced in relation to COVID-19. Learn more about their differences.

Many terms that you likely haven’t used this way before are being introduced during the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Screening and testing are two common terms being referenced. You may think screening and testing are the same, but they are different.

For COVID-19, screening at entrances to health care facilities may take place regardless of whether you have COVID-19 signs or symptoms. Screenings are precautionary and could include answering a few, brief questions and having your temperature taken.

COVID-19 testing occurs when a health care provider determines that symptoms are such that testing is warranted. For example, testing may be ordered if you are exhibiting signs of fever or temperature greater than 100 degrees, a new cough (within the last day or two) or shortness of breath that is not due to allergies or a chronic condition, and you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19. Testing also could occur to investigate something detected during a screening.

In a nutshell, screening determines if you exhibit signs of COVID-19 and testing determines if you have COVID-19.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

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