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What to Expect with a COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
04/24/20  11:30 AM PST
covid 19 rapid antibody test

Editor’s note: Below, Aaron Baker describes his experience receiving a rapid diagnostic test (RDT), also called a rapid antibody test or rapid serologic test, for COVID-19. Please note, due to the rapid rollout of these tests, scientific opinions of their reliability to determine COVID-19 exposure are mixed. The World Health Organization issued a warning about Coronavirus testing on Friday, April 17, stating that there is no current evidence serological tests can show whether a person has immunity or is no longer at risk of becoming reinfected. Additionally, some tests have been shown to have issues with sensitivity, giving an inaccurate result.

Shield HealthCare is publishing Aaron Baker’s experience with an antibody test in an effort to share the process of COVID-19 rapid antibody testing. This article may be updated as more information becomes available.

What is a Rapid Diagnostic Test?  An RDT is typically a qualitative (positive or negative) test that is small, portable, and can be used at point of care. These tests may use blood samples from a finger prick, saliva samples, or nasal swab fluids. RDTs are often similar to pregnancy tests in that the test shows the user colored lines to indicate positive or negative results. In the context of COVID-19, these tests most frequently test for patient antibodies (IgG and IgM), or viral antigen. (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health | Center for Health Security)

Protecting Myself With Information

This January, I came down with some of the worst flu-like symptoms and was stuck in bed for over three weeks. I tested negative for the flu, it did not develop into pneumonia or bronchitis, and I self-diagnosed my symptoms as RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Oddly enough, RSV is mostly common in children under the age of 2, but it was the closest thing to what I was experiencing.

It is even more chilling to look back at the blog I wrote at the time, “Sick Happens: Spinal Cord Injury and the Common Cold,” since we are now all aware of what coronavirus and COVID-19 are. I wrote about how I was combating the illness, whichever one I was fighting:

What I have learned is that a heightened self-awareness is a good thing, and that a healthy dose of germ aversion is not bad. And by that I mean I wash my hands frequently, carry [hand] sanitizer, wipes and sprays, and do not touch my eyes, ears, nose and mouth consciously.

Rule of thumb – The holes of the body are the doorways for bugs. Obviously though, sick happens, most often when you least expect it. The best defense I have found is a combination of these things:

    1. Self-Awareness
    2. Nutrition
    3. Exercise
    4. Rest
    5. Research

Here we are, April of 2020, and well into a quarantine for COVID-19. It is an invisible enemy without a clear diagnosis or treatment. My wife and I have been homebound since the first week of March and been lucky to have family, and Instacart, to help us with groceries. We have left the house to go on bike rides in our neighborhood hills and for car rides to appreciate the lack of traffic in Los Angeles – all while wearing our masks. Please wear your masks!

With the countless stories of COVID-19 patients, I could not help but think – did I have it? I had the opportunity to get the antibodies test which looks for certain things in your blood. Your body makes these when it fights an infection and that is how you develop an immunity to the virus. The antibody test is not checking for the virus itself, but it looks to see whether your immune system has responded to the infection. I made an appointment hoping to get a clearer answer to my level of exposure to this virus.

My wife and I suited up, gloves and masks on, and took off for the doctor’s appointment. We decided to get her tested as well since she was exposed to me during my illness and might be asymptomatic. Asymptomatic means she could be the carrier of the disease, but not show any symptoms. We were advised that if we tested positive for the antibodies, we would then need to get a nasal swab to rule out, or in, if we were positive for the virus at the time of test too.

covid 19 rapid antibody test resultsIt was any easy test – a finger prick blood test on my ring finger. We waited 10 minutes for the results… Negative.

We waited an additional 10 minutes to see if anything else came up… Negative.  WOW! It appears I did not have COVID-19 back in January. However, it was a reassurance that what we are doing from home to protect ourselves, and our family and community, were working. We are still susceptible to getting the virus in the future, but we are looking to what we did in January (heightened self-awareness and a healthy dose of germ aversion; nutrition; exercise; rest; research) as our standard mode of operation.

Stay healthy my friends,

Aaron

 

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