CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The number of probable COVID-19 cases has increased in South Carolina in recent weeks, and state health officials believe this is due to more antigen tests being done.
Probable cases are included in the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Controls daily reports, but they remain separate from each day’s number of confirmed cases.
“The increase in the probable cases is likely due to more people being tested by the antigen-based test rather than the PCR-based test, and that’s as more and more antigen tests are becoming available,” SCDHEC’s Dr. Brannon Traxler said.
Data from April 9 shows 392 probable cases, triple the number state health officials reported just one month ago.
“There are different ways you can qualify as a probable case. One is that you have not had a confirmatory lab test, meaning a PCR test done that’s positive, but that you have clinical criteria and have an epidemiological ink to someone who is positive. Another is that you meet the criteria for presumptive lab evidence, so you’ve had a positive antigen test,” Traxler explained.
Many of the antigen tests offered now are referred to as rapid tests, and while they are considered reliable, they do not meet the same standards as the lab-based PCR tests.
“It comes down to the PCR being the gold standard, the most accurate and reliable test that is out there,” Traxler said.
Officials said there is not a dedicated process or real need to otherwise confirm those probable cases.
“I do want to point out that regardless of confirmed or probable case, the recommendations and public health actions to decrease the disease spread, such as isolating the person who is positive and quarantining close contacts, are exactly the same regardless of if someone is a confirmed or probable case,” Traxler said.