Second test on Quinhagak girl suggests false positive

Samples for COVID-19 testing are collected using a cotton swab like the one pictured here from the lab at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hospital in Bethel, Alaska. (Katie Basile / KYUK)

The young girl from Quinhagak who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week likely was not carrying the virus. 

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation believes it received a false positive from a rapid test administered to the child when she flew into Bethel for medical care. The girl, who’s under the age of 10, was tested a second time with a coronavirus test that was sent to a state lab. These lab results take a few days to process, and results received on May 29 came back negative.

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The girl was initially tested on May 26. That day, YKHC flew a response team to Quinhagak to test close contacts of the child and to offer community-wide testing. About 350 people, approximately half the village population, volunteered for rapid tests. YKHC followed the rapid tests with swabs later sent to the state lab. All initial results came back negative. The lab results are pending.

“While YKHC is highly confident the rapid test provided a false positive, YKHC uses rapid testing when we believe it would make a difference in how we manage clinical response of a patient at that time,” YKHC wrote in a press release. “In other words, if the rapid test returns as positive, it allows us to urge quarantine or self-isolation immediately to reduce the risk of community spread. We act as every positive is a true positive, because the health risk to our communities of not doing so is too high. In this circumstance, it also allowed YKHC to deploy our village rapid response team out of an abundance of caution to conduct community-based response.”

RELATED: A young girl tested positive for coronavirus in Quinhagak, but leaders say they’re ready

YKHC urges Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta residents to remain vigilant in their protective measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus by physical distancing from non-household members, regular hand washing, wearing a face covering in public, and regularly disinfecting surfaces in your home. YKHC also encourages everyone to take a free coronavirus test outside the Bethel Alaska Airlines terminal when arriving from out of the region.

Anna Rose MacArthur is a reporter at KYUK in Bethel.

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