One of the biggest questions right now is: “Have I had COVID-19?” The COVID-19 antibody test is the test for determining whether or not you have proteins in your blood that show you have developed an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. The antibody test is a blood test that looks for proteins, also known as antibodies, in your system that are unique identifiers of the COVID-19 virus. Unlike other COVID-19 tests, the antibody test does not identify whether you currently have the virus; instead, the antibody test identifies if you have been infected with COVID-19 in the past.
LEARN IF YOU’VE BEEN INFECTED
The main reason many people are interested in the COVID-19 antibody test is to learn if they have been infected with the virus in the past. In early 2020, we did not have as much information on the virus and it is possible that people who thought they had a cold or flu may have actually had the virus. At this time, researchers and scientists are still learning about antibodies and how long they may stay present in your system. The antibody test can be used to determine if you were exposed to the virus in the past. The COVID-19 virus is able to spread through people who may not even have symptoms, known as asymptomatic carriers. That means you could have had COVID-19 without any symptoms.
UNDERSTAND THE PREVALENCE OF COVID-19
Antibody testing also helps communities better understand the prevalence of COVID-19 cases, including those who have already had the virus and those who are currently diagnosed. The more antibody testing in your community, the more researchers and scientists can determine the local infection rate and also may help predict how COVID-19 could continue to affect the community. There are more opportunities to give back to the community and those currently fighting the virus if you have antibodies for COVID-19 in your system, like convalescent plasma therapy.
FIGHT OFF FUTURE INFECTIONS
Antibodies for a number of viruses can help you fight future infections and even protect you from getting reinfected. Researchers and scientists are still learning more about this aspect of COVID-19 and antibodies, like how long antibodies may be able to protect you from COVID-19 once you’ve already had the virus. In the best-case scenario, antibodies in your system may help you to avoid reinfection. However, because this information is still being researched it is important to not have a false sense of security regarding the virus. At this point, there is no indication that antibodies will prevent those who have recovered from COVID-19 from being reinfected.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GET AN ANTIBODY TEST?
Antibody tests are most effective 10-21 days after you have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. If you recently came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should wait 10 days to see if you develop any symptoms of the virus. You may also want to consider a diagnostic test for COVID-19. However, if you do not develop symptoms, it is possible that you may be asymptomatic and an antibody test would help identify if you have antibodies in your system. If you have experienced one of the common symptoms of COVID-19 but did not get tested for the virus, it is possible you could have experienced a mild case of the virus in the past. Whether or not you test positive for antibodies in your system, it is important to still take precautions and protect yourself and others from spreading the virus in your community.