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COVID-19 Serology Testing

Featured Speaker

Christina Asiala

Christina Asiala

Christina Asiala is the Upper Peninsula Regional Director of Laboratory Services for Aspirus.

About this Podcast

Christina Asiala discusses COVID-19 Serology testing.


Melanie Cole (Host):   Aspirus is leading the charge in getting the community back to the new normal by bringing serology antibody testing to the area. Welcome to Aspirus Healthtalk. I'm Melanie Cole and today we’re discussing COVID-19 serology testing. Joining me is Christina Asiala. She’s the upper peninsula regional director of laboratory services for Aspirus. Christina, it’s a pleasure to have you on. This is really a great topic. It’s on the top of so many minds and people do not know what it is. Before we get into serology and antibodies, tell us about COVID-19. If someone did not know that they had it or did not show symptoms, can they spread it to others?

Christina Asiala (Guest):   Yes. It is very possible for someone who is asymptomatic to spread the virus to others.

Host:   So then tell us what an antibody is.

Christina:   Antibodies are specific proteins that are made in response to infections. Antibodies are found in the blood of people who have developed an immune response to a previous infection.

Host:   So then tell us a little bit about what an antibody test shows. How does that all work?

Christina:  Sure. So the COVID antibody test in particular it shows if you’ve been previously exposed to the COVID virus. Many people, as we’ve mentioned, could be asymptomatic and not know that they have had the virus in the past. The COVID antibody test is especially important for detecting a previous COVID infection where the patient had few or no symptoms at all. The patient could have just had a runny nose or a mild fever and not know that they had COVID, but they actually did. This antibody test will show that they were previously exposed.

Host:   I suppose one of the biggest questions is how long after exposure would you show a positive test for antibodies? If you were somebody, as you just described, that had COVID-19 but showed very few symptoms, how long would they test positive for these antibodies? Is it the 14 day we hear about or could it be six months? How long does this last? 

Christina: Well, the 14 days that we hear about is for the COVID virus test. So that tells us you actually have the virus currently. It takes up to 14 days to get the virus. However, the antibodies once you are exposed and you recover from the virus, that’s when you have the antibodies in your system. So at this time we don’t know how long those antibodies stay in your system. Whether it’s a lifetime or if it’s a certain amount of months. However, if you’ve been exposed within say the last six months or so then you would have these antibodies in your system. You would have to fully recover from the virus before you would have these antibodies.

Host:   Well that’s interesting. So why is this test important then? Why do we need to know if someone had it but doesn’t have it anymore?

Christina: Well this test is important because it’s just the next step to getting our patients back to receiving excellent healthcare. The availability to the test, it’s an important turning point in the fight against COVID. It will help us get a clearer picture of how the disease has spread throughout our community. Because many people are asymptomatic when they have it, they may not have even known that they had coronavirus. Right now in our community we have very few cases, but we do have a lot of people who are getting the antibody test because they think that they may have had this in the past.

Host:   Well then how does someone get tested? What are the criteria for you to test somebody?

Christina: Anyone can get a COVID antibody test. You just need an order from your provider. If you don’t have a provider, you can call our COVID hotline or you can make an appointment with any of our Aspirus providers. Once you have a doctor’s orders, you just have to come in to any of our Aspirus labs. We would have your blood drawn. It would just be a very quick blood draw and then you’d be on your way.

Host:   Does insurance cover this test Christina?

Christina: Yes. Because of the CARES Acts, all COVID testing—both the COVID virus test and the COVID antibody test—are free to everyone. If you do have insurance, all insurances have to cover the cost 100%. It does not go to your deductible. If you don’t have insurance, the test is still free.

Host:   Wow. What a great way to keep the community safe and really get information and knowledge at the same time. Kind of summarize it for us the importance of the antibody test, what you do in serology, and how people sign up for this test.

Christina: The COVID antibody test looks for previous COVID infections in patients. Because many people with COVID are asymptomatic, many don’t even know that they’ve had the virus. All COVID testing is free. If you feel there's a chance that you’ve been previously exposed to COVID, you should call your provider and ask them to write you a lab order for the COVID testing. You can bring that in to any Aspirus lab, have your blood drawn, and then you’ll get results back in about two days.

Host:   It’s so interesting and such important information for listeners in the community to hear. Thank you so much Christina for coming on and telling us about the antibody test. Many people have questions and they don’t really know what it is. So thank you, again, for joining us. Thank you for listening to this episode of Aspirus Healthtalk. Please visit our website at aspirus.org for more information on antibody testing and to get connected with one of our providers. For more health tips and updates, please follow us on your social channels. Please remember to subscribe, rate, and review this podcast and all the other Aspirus podcasts. I'm Melanie Cole