Division of Public Health: Antibody testing helped at long-term care facilities

SMYRNA — With still more to learn about COVID-19 antibody testing, the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is not planning to increase the availability of antibody testing at this time.

Antibody tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, which may tell you if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

“We continue to assess the need and value for antibody testing,” said Jen Brestel, a spokeswoman for the DPH. “The science is still not clear on the clinical value of antibody testing, whether antibodies can provide protection (immunity) against getting infected again, or how long antibodies last in the body. There is still more to learn.”

Ms. Brestel said the DPH used antibody testing more back when the virus first arrived in Delaware and is now mainly using it in long-term care facilities.

“Rapid antibody tests were a great resource early in the pandemic where IgM (Immunoglobulin M) results could be used to assess for evidence of risk for viral spread,” Ms. Brestel said. “They served as a reasonable alternative in high-risk settings when molecular PCR (polymerise chain reaction) testing was more limited. When the state shifted focus to PCR testing as availability increased, we continued to utilize antibody testing in long-term care facilities as a way to identify potential outbreaks.”

There have been a total of 1,160 positive COVID-19 cases cumulatively involving long-term care residents, and 333 residents of Delaware long-term care facilities have died from complications related to COVID-19, according to the DPH’s weekly report which was released Friday. No additional deaths have been reported among long-term care residents in the past week.

Those numbers, via the DPH, are as of 6 p.m. on Thursday.

There are currently five ways for a person to receive antibody testing for COVID-19 in Delaware. They are available at DPH clinics while primary care practices, Federally Qualified Health Centers, urgent care centers and employer-based testing locations all may provide an order for blood tests through an outside laboratory.

In regards to how to obtain an antibody test, Ms. Brestel said antibody testing is typically ordered in the clinical setting.

“If individuals are interested in antibody testing, they are recommended to talk to their medical provider,” Ms. Brestel said.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antibodies start developing within one-to-three weeks after infection and they show the body’s efforts to fight off a specific infection. Antibody testing is not used to diagnose a current COVID-19 infection.

The CDC says on its website there is currently not enough information yet to say whether someone will definitely be immune and protected from reinfection if they have antibodies to the virus. The CDC also states, at this time, antibody tests are not always 100% accurate and some false positive results or false negative results may occur.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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