Due to the progression of the new Omicron variant, the general public can now take rapid antigen tests from the comfort of their own homes. Many of these tests are available without a prescription and return results in just 15 minutes.

Demand for the tests has surged in recent months, as the highly infectious Delta variant has spread and schools and offices have reopened; now the even more infectious Omicron variant has arrived.The omicron variant has made at-home Covid tests hot-ticket items locally and nationwide.

While access and cost to the tests are struggles in some areas, the new variant could also affect the tests' sensitivity.

According to reports, the FDA said Tuesday that it was monitoring and evaluating antigen tests on the market for their sensitivity to the omicron variant, and it said preliminary data appeared to show a decline in receptivity.

The potential is concerning, but the FDA did write that the findings were preliminary and continued to state that it was "continuing to further evaluate the performance of antigen tests using patient samples with live virus."

The FDA didn't say which test kit brands it had evaluated, and didn't share the data that led to its preliminary findings or estimate when it might conclude its assessment of the rapid tests and share its conclusions with the public.

Overall, when used correctly, many rapid antigen tests are good at detecting people carrying high levels of the virus.

Experts advise that rapid-at-home antigen tests are a good option for people who have been exposed to the virus, and to those who want to know whether a sore throat is Covid-19 or just a cold, or who want a little bit of extra assurance before visiting a vulnerable relative or after traveling to a virus hot spot.

According to additional studies, the tests themselves are most accurate when a person has symptoms. While they are able to detect asymptomatic cases, there’s a greater likelihood for false negatives. Most experts agree that people get positive antigen results when they’re most contagious.

Experts advise that people with symptoms can take a rapid antigen test immediately, but those who have had a known exposure to the virus should wait three to five days before doing so. Testing too soon, before the virus has had a chance to replicate, increases the odds of a false negative.

Although the recent number of positive cases have soared, the actual number of positive cases likely surpass the numbers that are being shared due to at-home tests. The reason for that is because consumers who test positive at home are advised to report their positive results to their local health authorities and undoubtedly, there are some who will fail to report it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t specify that those who self-test for Covid report their results to local health departments. Instead, it recommends sharing positive results with health care providers, who will report the results. The CDC also recommends informing close contacts — defined as anyone you were less than 6 feet away from for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period — of your positive result, whether it was from a home test or a lab test.

Click the following link to see the latest Covid-19 statistics as reported by the Arkansas Department of Health. https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/novel-coronavirus

To report a positive result contact your local health unit during normal business hours. The contact information for the Pope County, Yell County, Johnson County and Conway County health units are listed below. To

Pope County Health Unit

203 Weir Road

Russellville, AR

(479) 968-6004

Yell County Health Unit

719 N. 5th Street

Dardanelle, AR

(479) 229-3509

Johnson County Health Unit

6 Professional Health Drive,

Clarksville, AR

(479) 754-2949

Conway County Health Unit

100 Hospital Drive

Morrilton, AR

(501) 354-4652

For more information from the Arkansas Department of Health, click the follow link. https://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/covid-19-reports

For additional information concerning at-home testing, click the following link. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html