Fact check: Posts confuse COVID-19 viral test with COVID-19 antibody test 

Social media users have been sharing a screenshot from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website on COVID-19 antibody testing and claiming that a common cold can produce a positive COVID-19 test. The post confuses COVID-19 testing (viral tests) and COVID-19 antibody testing, which are two different tests.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples can be seen  here  and  here

One post reads: “(Sharing) let this sink in... the COMMON COLD can produce a positive COVID test!! do the increase of numbers really mean ANYTHING at this point?? so we are shutting down businesses, mandating masks & causing mass hysteria of this ‘second wave’ for THIS?!! 99.99997% survival rate!!”

This post then links to CDC’s antibody testing page where the screenshots have been taken from ( here ). However, the Facebook user confuses COVID-19 viral tests with antibody tests.  

The CDC explains on its website: “Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests. A viral test tells you if you have a current infection. An antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection.” ( here

The CDC says there is a chance that antibody testing may produce a positive result if you have antibodies from another virus from the coronavirus family, such as the common cold ( here ). Some milder coronaviruses can cause illnesses like the common cold, while others cause more severe illnesses like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ( here , here ). The COVID-19 viral test tells patients whether they have a current infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 ( here ).  

Users are equating the information on COVID-19 antibody testing to viral COVID-19 testing, which is false.


False. The posts confuse COVID-19 viral testing with COVID-19 antibody testing. The antibody test might give a positive result if antibodies from another virus from the coronavirus family are tested, milder strains of which can cause a common cold.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work  here  .