During the COVID-19 surge in Connecticut, diagnostic tests performed with a nasal swab were critical in determining who had been infected with the coronavirus. Now, as the state’s economy reopens, a blood test is helping health professionals detect an immune response in people who were infected and also identify people were infected, perhaps unwittingly, but experienced mild or no symptoms.
A serology test, now available at Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care centers to most patients, detects COVD-19 antibodies produced by an immune response to the virus. Assessing how many people have been infected may provider a clearer picture of how the virus spreads. A test can’t determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19, nor does a positive result mean you have developed an immunity against the virus.
“The antibody test is a little different from a diagnostic test,” says Dr. Eric Walsh, Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care’s Medical Director. “It speaks to a longer-term strategy around herd immunity.”
The herd would be the part of the population immune to a virus. The larger the herd, the less likely large numbers of people will become sick. Usually, this is achieved through a combination of vaccinations and people who have developed an immunity through their immune system’s response to an infection. Antibodies are often an indication of immunity, but it’s still uncertain if that applies to COVID-19.
“So right now, this is a peace-of-mind kind of thing, which is important,” says Dr. Walsh. “This has been a mentally taxing pandemic. Knowing if you had it or didn’t have it is helpful.”
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, never before identified, so much remains unknown. But health officials are hopeful that, once infected, your body will build some resistance to the virus. A serological test will tell those who have been infected if their immune system has produced antibodies that may, depending on ongoing research, provide some form of immunity.
GoHealth uses the Quest Diagnostics SARS-COV-2 Serology Antibody test, authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in emergency situations, that requires a small blood draw. The tests indicate whether you have the antibodies, but not their levels. Results are typically available within 48 hours.
If you think you now have COVID-19 symptoms, Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent Care can also provide a diagnostic test.