How do you know if antibody testing is right for you?

Published: Apr. 30, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
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As the fight to reopen Michigan and the rest of the country wages on, there's at least one test being done on how to do it safely.

Doctors say antibody tests, like the ones now being offered at several places in mid-Michigan, including Lansing Urgent Care, could lead to clues on what the coronavirus is doing to our bodies.

However, the test is not for everyone.

"If you have COVID-19 right now, the antibody test is not for you," said Dr. Terry Matthews.

Plain and simple, Matthews said the test is made for people who think they might have had COVID-19 in the past.

"Diagnostic testing lets you know if you're sick right now. The antibody test is something that lets us look back a couple of weeks, a couple of months, a year, to say have you been exposed or infected by a virus," Matthews said.

For the test to do its job, you should be symptom-free for at least two weeks. Anything less than that and it's not enough time to show if your body was doing its job to protect itself, Matthews said.

"Once you get to this point in the process of the pandemic, now we shift to trying to figure out who has actually been affected," he said.

There are currently more than 150 antibody tests on the market. Serum antibody tests, which involve drawing blood, are being used at Lansing Urgent Care. Health officials currently believe those tests are more accurate than others, in many cases an accuracy of upwards of 90 percent, unlike other tests also currently being used, like rapid finger-prick tests.

"If you have a positive result, there is some reassurance there, and some belief among the medical community, that you are going to have some degree of imminity," Matthews said.

Of course, that also doesn't mean you're in the clear and your body can fight off COVID-19.

"Don't use a positive result as a reason to stop social distancing, and change behaviors in a large way. It's going to give a lot of people a lot of relief to know they have a positive antibody test," Matthews said.

Test results for antibody tests usually come back within two to four days.

98point6 Emergicenters also offers the antibody test locally.

Sparrow Hospital said it plans to offer it soon, and said in the meantime, it's greatly expanded PCR testing. That's when a doctor or healthcare worker swabs your nose to see if you're positive for coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 WILX. All rights reserved.

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