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Ingham County Health Department issues warning on COVID-19 antibody tests

Posted at 7:23 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 05:57:13-04

LANSING, Mich. — Antibody testing is becoming more popular across Michigan as people want to see if they've had COVID-19 without even realizing it.

However, the Ingham County Health Department said those tests might not be as reliable as you think.

"I think the health department is right on the money," said Dr. James Richard, Sparrow Lab Director. "Right now there's really not enough information known about what this test result tells us."

Sparrow is expanding antibody testing Friday.

Dr. Richard said the information it provides could be useful in the fight against coronavirus.

"To identify what the penetrance has been in our community. We don't know how many asymptomatic people in our community actually had COVID," he said.

"There's a lot of anxiety out there," said Dr. Terry Mathews, Lansing Urgent Care CEO.

Lansing Urgent Care was one of the first to offer the antibody testing in mid-Michigan.

It's CEO Dr. Terry Mathews said these tests can offer some peace of mind.

"A lot of people are just wanting information, have I been exposed? An antibody test gives them some sort of answer," said Dr. Mathews.

But Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said these tests can give false hope.

"The test is not going to help your doctor do anything and it doesn't really tell you anything safely returning to work," said Vail.

About 100 different tests have Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, which is different from a formal FDA approval.

That's why Vail said more studies need to be done.

"It's still in the early stages of developing that as a strategy and instead of researching it, testing it, and deploying it in communities where we don't know necessarily what the answers mean," she said.

No matter what result you get on your antibody test, you are still encouraged to practice social distancing.

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