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CDC study shows accuracy of UW-System antigen COVID-19 tests

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WISCONSIN (WAOW) -- Many colleges have turned to antigen testing as a way to identify coronavirus outbreaks on campus. Now the CDC says after comparing test results the need for follow-up testing may be necessary.

For months, the University of Wisconsin System has been using COVID-19 antigen test kits to screen students living on campus.

The CDC says the tests missed 20 percent of positive cases among those showing symptoms. For asymptomatic individuals, those tests missed nearly 59 percent of positive cases.

"This is the great dilemma between the molecular PCR test and the antigen test and so all of this is part of the decision making about what is the best test at the best time for the right patient," said Julie Williams Van Dijk, Deputy Secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

In a statement released by UW-System President Tommy Thompson on December 31, he says the study identifies that the rapid-results antigen test is an appropriate use for settings like residence halls. He went on to say the system will have an even more aggressive testing program in the spring semester.

While the data may look like many COVID cases are being missed, the DHS said the tests are actually quite accurate for those with symptoms.

"It does seem to be a fairly reliable test for those with symptoms it can also be a fairly reliable test for people who are receiving regular testing every few days," said Williams Van Dijk.

The CDC says this study is a reminder that no test is 100 percent.

Amanda Lojewski

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