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COVID-19 Testing

In Chiriqui province testing for coronavirus is available at MINSA. In Boquete at the Polyclinic they have two test kits available, although those can be replenished from David if needed. Only specimens are collected here. The actual testing is done at the Gorgas Institute in Panama City, although other hospitals (e.g. Obaldia) will have the capability soon.
    The doctors in Boquete have been given the following protocol to observe in regards to testing:
1. If you think that you have symptoms of COVID-19 (COVID-19 is the disease caused by coronavirus) you should call your doctor if you have a private doctor. DO NOT GO to the doctor’s office or clinic. If you do not have a private doctor then the MINSA clinic (next to Romero’s) has established a special entrance for people who think they might have COVID-19.
2. The doctor will ask several screening questions to determine whether your symptoms are suspicious.
3. If they deem you suspicious they will make arrangements to see you at either your home, their office, or some other place where they can examine you. They will examine you and take your vital signs (respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure, pulse).
4. They will call the epidemiologist at MINSA in David and make a disposition.

    A. If and only if you meet requirements for testing and do not require hospitalization then MINSA will arrange for you to be tested. Probably they will send someone to your home to collect a swab for testing and you will be placed under self-isolation until the results are known. A physician will be assigned to follow up regularly with you.

    B. If you don’t meet requirements for testing then you will be placed under quarantine and assigned a physician for regular follow up.

    C. If you are ill enough to require hospitalization MINSA will arrange transportation to the Regional Hospital in David. Regional Hospital has only ten ICU beds - i.e. beds with ventilators for those who come down with the most severe form of the disease. If you have medical insurance that covers air ambulance evacuation to the USA, Canada, or elsewhere you might want to familiarize yourself with the details now.

5. If your test comes back negative then you can end self-isolation.
6. If your test comes back positive then you will need to remain in self-isolation for probably 14 days, or until you are cleared by MINSA or your doctor.
7. MINSA has established a hotline number for the public in order to answer questions and give out information. Just dial 169. We don’t know if there are English-speakers available at that number.

Ted Harrison, MD

Digna Diaz, MD

If you would like more detail on the plan, and particularly on the self-isolation procedures and requirements, we have uploaded the MINSA Action Plan (in Spanish, about 40 pages), and 2) our translation of relevant pages of that document, to the Chiriqui.life website and the Boquete Talks files section.

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  • 5 months later...
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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. An antibody test might not show if you have a current infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 might provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.

Above taken from the referenced CDC website. Sounds like the viral test is one travelers should seek first. A friend told me that there soon will be a third kind of test - called a t-cell test. Does anyone have any info about that new test?

Edited by BD
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