MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There is a limited quantity of COVID-19 rapid home tests as they are flying off the shelves. But some people aren't buying them to test themselves for COVID, instead, they are testing their tap water. Rumors are circulating on social media that there's COVID-19 in tap water after several viral videos of people applying drops of tap water on the Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 rapid home-test are positive.
Is tap water testing positive for COVID-19?
An Abbott spokesperson said in an email Tuesday, that its device is not meant to be used with water or any other liquids or foods. The statement further explained other liquids have chemical properties that can cause misleading or inaccurate results.
The full statement read,
"BinaxNOW is for use with samples collected with a nasal swab inserted into a person’s nostrils. BinaxNOW is not for use with water or any other foods or liquids. When used as intended, it is a highly accurate test that is helping to detect COVID-19 and can significantly improve efforts to control transmission. Other liquids have chemical properties which can cause a chemical reaction on the test strip, resulting in misleading or inaccurate results. Failure to follow the instructions for the test procedure and interpretation of test results may adversely affect test performance and produce misleading or invalid results. Spreading misinformation with deliberate misuse of a medical product during a pandemic is misleading, irresponsible, and dangerous to public health."
Doctor Steve Threkled is also debunking the rumors. He said people shouldn't be surprised to see positive results when the tests are being used incorrectly.
"The whole thing is ridiculous because these tests are finely tuned and you can't just put whatever material you want to in there," Threkled said. "It's like me saying, 'you know, I need to do a blood test on you but I can't get blood so I am going to pour your urine specimen on it and run that.' I mean that would be crazy. So this kind of thing is not designed to run with fluids it's designed to run a nasal swab with very little fluid."
Last year the CDC reported COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water, explaining conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection removes the virus that causes COVID-19.
However, the CDC did note COVID-19 has been found in sewerage water, but there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through wastewater.
According to BinaxNow, when the tests are done correctly, BinaxNOW shows a performance of 95.6% positive agreement (sensitivity) in people seven days or less post-symptom onset with Ct counts of 33 or below. These are people who are most likely to be infectious and spread the virus. BinaxNOW demonstrates an overall performance of 84.6% positive agreement (sensitivity) and 98.5% negative agreement (specificity) in people seven days or less post-symptom onset at all Ct counts.
For those who are unable to get a home rapid test or tested at a local clinic or pharmacy, the Shelby County Health Department said getting tested at the ER isn’t an option.
Instead, health officials want you to stay at home because the ER is only seeing COVID patients with severe symptoms. If you suspect you have COVID or been around someone who has covid you should isolate for 5 days, according to the CDC's updated recommendation.