Blood testing can reveal a lot about a person, from blood type to the presence of certain diseases to antibodies from past illnesses.
Dr. James Polo, an executive medical director at Regence BlueShield, said antibodies are formed after a body fights off an infection. Coronavirus is no exception.
“The way it works is that if you were infected with COVID, your body responds by building up antibodies. Those antibodies basically get rid of the infection,” Polo said. “And so, this test goes looking for the presence of those antibodies.”
There are things antibody testing can’t show. But it can tell you if you have had COVID-19.
“It doesn’t tell you if you’re currently infected with COVID. It doesn’t tell you if you had a bad COVID infection or easy COVID infection. It also doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily immune from future infection,” Polo said.
Antibody testing is available through the American Red Cross and Vitalant for those who donate blood through those nonprofit organizations. Some clinics and doctor’s offices also offer the testing, though it is not always covered by insurance.
Valley Medical Center started a COVID antibody response team recently, according to Dr. Cory Gall and has done several tests.
If people are interested in getting an antibody test, Gall said they can schedule an informational meeting where they can learn their options.
“Valley Medical Center is very much trying to educate,” he said.
With COVID-19 antibody tests being new, there is a chance they could be inaccurate, but there are ways consumers can make sure they’re getting reliable results.
When looking at testing sites, Polo said people should ask if the test is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, if the lab is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments and to always check with their primary care provider.
Antibody testing only shows whether an individual previously had an illness. People who suspect they might currently have COVID-19 should seek medical advice about diagnostic testing.
“When it comes to ‘I think I’m worried I might be infected,’ or ‘I’m having the symptoms that are the ones that I’ve been reading about’ my recommendation would be the first thing to do is to call your call your primary care doctor, explain what’s going on and ask what to do,” Polo said. “They will give good advice. If a doctor recommends you need to get tested, then the best thing to do is ask, ‘Where should I go, what should I do?’ ”
Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @kalinelson6.
What’s up with that?
What’s up with that? is a reader and Tribune question-generated column that runs on occasion. To submit your question, call City Editor Mary Stone at (208) 848-2244, post to the Tribune’s Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org with What’s up with that? in the subject line.