As testing for COVID-19 increases across the Commonwealth, the Madison County Health Department provides the following information to Madison County residents. There are two categories of testing: viral tests and antibody tests.
Viral Tests: Detect a current/active infection by checking respiratory samples, such as a swab from inside the nose. There are two basic viral tests.
Antigen Test- Detects viral proteins to discover an active infection; swab similar to a strep test; results known quickly—may need further confirmation from a follow up PCR test.
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) Test – looks for specific genetic information of the virus; most specific test; results in 24-48 hours.
Antibody Tests: Detect if a person has had a previous infection of the virus. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose someone as being currently sick with COVID-19.
What can be learned from antibody tests: • Antibody tests provide a better picture of infections by providing more accurate data of how many people have had the virus.
Drawbacks to antibody testing: • It can produce false positives and false negatives. It is possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently, since antibodies don’t show up for 1 to 3 weeks after infection. This means you could still spread the virus. • Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies, and some people may not develop antibodies at all. • The FDA does not support all antibody tests. Recent reports state only a minority of the currently available tests could reliably detect antibodies in those who had recovered from Covid-19.
What cannot be learned from antibody tests: It is unclear if those antibodies can provide protection (immunity) against getting infected again. This means that we do not know at this time if antibodies make you immune to the virus.
While the response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the public is urged to continue following these recommendations:
• Stay healthy at home as much as possible • When going out in public, wear a cloth face covering (over the nose and under the chin) • Avoid crowds and large gatherings • Practice social (physical) distancing • Wash hands and surfaces using soap and warm water
Learn more about COVID-19 at www.KYCOVID19.ky.gov, or call the Kentucky COVID-19 Hotline at 1-800-722-5725.