Can you test positive for two COVID variants at once?

Coronavirus

(NEXSTAR) – While the omicron variant of COVID-19 has become the dominant strain in the U.S., the delta variant maintains a strong presence nationwide. But if you test positive for one, can you have the other at the same time?

“You certainly could if you had really, really, really bad luck,” says Dr. Jim Conway, medical director with the immunization program at UW Health in Wisconsin.

He explains that, earlier in the pandemic, there were a number of children who would have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and another common cold virus such as rhinovirus or enterovirus. The World Health Organization recently reported cases of people getting influenza and COVID at the same time, calling it ‘flurona.’

Because you’re able to have two viruses at the same time, it’s not impossible to have two COVID variants simultaneously. 

“There’s nothing to say that you couldn’t have both delta and omicron,” Dr. Conway says. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there’s people, especially those that are very social and out and about doing a lot of things and who are unvaccinated, who could easily get two at the same time.”

Both variants would be found during the sequencing of a COVID test. If you have a different cold-like virus, it likely won’t affect a COVID test.

According to Dr. Kelly Oakeson, Utah Public Health Laboratory chief scientist of bioinformatics and next generation sequencing, PCR and antigen tests used for COVID testing are very specific to detecting SARS-CoV-2.

“They’re designed, really, to pinpoint one virus and one virus only,” Dr. Oakeson notes. Just like COVID, there are tests that can be used to detect other viruses.

If you are experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms — runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, shortness of breath — Dr. Conway recommends getting tested. He also encourages those that haven’t yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot to do so. 

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated. There were some people who wanted to wait and see and make sure that they understood how well [the vaccines] worked. And you know that these are safe,” Dr. Conway says.

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