Coronavirus update - antibody testing
I hope all of you are well and weathering the shelter-in-place order in good health and reasonably good spirits! I myself am challenged by trying to work from home (I'm only doing telemedicine for now) and homeschool my daughter at the same time. It isn't easy but as a whole we're succeeding in flattening the curve - we Washingtonians are a hardy and determined bunch!
Ultimately, to get ourselves out of this situation and start reopening our state we need more testing for COVID-19. Fortunately, in the last week Quest and LabCorp have rolled out their antibody testing for wide use. Whew! While I'm very excited about this there are a few caveats and warnings (of course!).
Antibody testing is done by a blood test. It looks for the lasting immune response (IgG) to the virus that causes COVID-19. It takes a minimum of 8-11 days (we think) to become positive with IgG antibodies after you've gotten the virus.
If you test positive you most likely had exposure to the virus and developed an immune response. There is still MUCH we don't know about how this might protect you though - we don't know if this means you are 100% immune to getting sick.
If you test negative it is still possible that you had exposure and even got sick with the coronavirus, because we may have tested too soon or you didn't make very many antibodies and/or the test isn't sensitive enough.
This is different from a clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 - that test is done on people who are currently sick with the symptoms of the virus (fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other symptoms) and is done with a swab in the nose and is called a PCR test - it looks for the DNA of the virus itself. I am not performing this testing myself because I'm unable to get the necessary protective gear, but if you have these symptoms I can refer you out for testing at one of the specialized sites that can do this.
BIG WARNING ON FALSE POSITIVES: there are a number of antibody tests on the market that are not very specific - in other words, people can get false positive test results back. A false positive is very dangerous with this virus, because you might think you are immune when you really are not. I've been looking into the statistics on the available test and I'm committed to only using tests with the highest level of accuracy so we can feel confident about the results.
If you are interested in testing, please make a video appointment with me so we can discuss the procedure and I can get it ordered for you. I will not be ordering tests without an appointment. Again, I am doing 100% video appointments at this time and insurance is generally covering these as though they were in-person visits.
And of course, I'm available to discuss any other health concerns you might have!