As scientists and doctors learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic, new questions are emerging just as quickly as old questions are being answered. Theories floating around the scientific community suggest that some populations may have developed innate immunity against the virus and that people who have produced a certain antibody for COVID-19 may be less susceptible to this infection.
Since as many as 50% of people who are infected with COVID-19 do not know they have the virus, I decided to take the antibodies test to determine if I could have been one of them. Before the lockdown started, I worked in a large office with hundreds of other people. Plus, I know that some people did test positive for coronavirus in my office building. There was every possibility that I could have caught the virus and been asymptomatic. Or I could have assumed that the symptoms were my normal seasonal allergies. What’s more, I did have a week where I remember feeling some shortness of breath.
The antibody test is different from the diagnostic test to determine if you currently have COVID-19. If you think you have an active infection, medical professionals will likely have to swab your nose and throat to confirm it. The antibody test is a blood test, which is meant to determine if your body has produced antibodies as part of an immune response in order to fight off COVID-19.
I was never tested for COVID-19, but I found the antibody test to be quite easy. I was able to schedule my test online and go to a lab near me. When I arrived, I was seated in a waiting room where all the chairs were spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other. Everybody was wearing facemasks, and hand sanitizer was readily available.
I waited about 15 minutes for a test that took about two. I only felt a small pinch as the medical technician put the needle in my arm. Also, he only took a single vial of blood. What’s more, I thought maybe there would be an extra sense of foreboding in the air since I was undergoing a coronavirus test. But this felt like just any other standard blood test. It was honestly a bit anticlimactic.
Afterward, I was told I would get my results online in 2 to 5 days and was sent home. However, it only took about 24 hours for me to get my results (though the wait time can vary). I was negative, which means I likely have not contracted COVID-19.
I’m grateful that I tested negative. I don’t know if I could have lived with myself if I was asymptomatic and had unknowingly infected somebody else. I’m also glad I’m healthy. On the other hand, I wish the results would have come back positive for detecting the coronavirus antibodies. If it’s proven that having the antibodies protects you from future infection, I would have been grateful for my body’s immune response. Plus, it would have meant I was infected with an extremely mild case and had already recovered. I was somewhat hoping for some kind of reassurance that I was less likely to come down with a severe case if I was to be infected. It would have relieved a lot of my anxiety regarding the pandemic.
What’s more, I still have mixed feelings about my blood test results. I can’t even be 100% sure my results were accurate.
The antibody tests currently on the market are only around 80% accurate. If the test is administered too early, there might not be enough antibodies present for the test to detect. Thus producing a false negative. On the other hand, if you’ve been previously diagnosed with one of the other coronaviruses, the wrong antibodies may be detected. Then, the results will show a false positive.
Plus, both the antibody test for COVID-19 and the diagnostic test are only accurate up to the moment in time the test is taken. There’s a chance I could have tested negative for antibodies this week, but test positive two weeks from now. I could have even been exposed to the virus while I was at the testing center. Or when I picked up some essential groceries the next day.
Despite the uncertainties, I’m glad to have some idea of my health status at this point in the pandemic. As the antibody tests improve, they could become helpful tools for experts to make decisions on reopening the economy. They could also show the full scope of coronavirus cases in various populations.
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