December 6, 2021 by John Fernandez
COVID-19 Antibody Testing Available at Baptist Health Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express Locations
As the number of coronavirus cases in Florida continues to rise, more and more people are wondering if they may have COVID-19 or have already been exposed to the virus. Antibody testing is available at all Baptist Health Urgent Care and Urgent Care Express locations across South Florida and can confirm past or recent exposure to COVID-19, which scientists believe leaves one less likely to be re-infected. David Mishkin, M.D., an emergency medicine specialist with Baptist Health, answers some frequently asked questions about antibody testing.
Resource: What is an antibody test?
Dr. Mishkin: Antibodies are proteins found in our blood which are made in response to infections. We can acquire antibodies from either exposure to prior infections or from vaccines. Serology, or antibody, testing shows us if a patient has been previously exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) even if they only developed mild symptoms or were asymptomatic. However, it cannot tell us whether they are currently infected.
Resource: What is the benefit of having an antibody test?
Dr. Mishkin: We don’t yet have enough information currently to know the true benefit but the hope is that, just like with the seasonal flu virus, someone who carries COVID-19 antibodies may be less likely to be re-infected with the virus. It can also help serve as a tool in population health management by giving us a more detailed and accurate picture of how, where and to what extent the virus is spreading in our community. There are probably many people in South Florida who had the coronavirus and never knew it because they had little or no symptoms. Having this information is critically important as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.
Resource: So if you test positive, do you still have to worry about catching COVID-19 again or infecting others?
Dr. Mishkin: There may still be a possibility. If antibodies are present, it often indicates a past infection but doesn’t exclude recently infected patients who may still be contagious. We don’t know how long antibodies to COVID-19 remain present in the body after the infection has been cleared. It’s also unknown whether these antibodies confer immunity to infection.
The U.S. Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) advises that even those with positive antibodies to COVID-19 should still take the necessary steps to protect themselves and others. This includes wearing a mask while in public, which many South Florida cities are enforcing, and staying six feet away from other people outside of their home, or social distancing. Antibody test results should not be used to inform return to school, work, or congregate setting decisions or use of personal protective equipment decisions.
Resource: If your antibody test comes back positive, do you need a different test to determine if your COVID-19 infection is active/current?
Dr. Mishkin: Yes, antibody tests are not used for the diagnosis of active infection. The results obtained with this test should only be interpreted in conjunction with clinical findings and results from other laboratory tests and evaluations.
Resource: How accurate is the antibody test?
Dr. Mishkin: The antibody test we use at Baptist Health has an accuracy rate of 99.6 percent. False positives may occur due to cross-reactivity from pre-existing antibodies, interfering substances or other possible causes. Also, some patients who are immunocompromised may fail to produce detectable antibodies.
Resource: Where can one go to get an antibody test?
Dr. Mishkin: You can get a COVID-19 antibody test at any Baptist Health Urgent Care or Urgent Care Express location — no advance prescription is required and the process only takes a few minutes for a quick blood draw. Test results are provided to you in 72 hours or less. Simply save your spot online at your nearest location by visiting BaptistHealth.net/UrgentCare.
Concerned you may have coronavirus?
Use our online Coronavirus Assessment tool or call our COVID-19 hotline, 1-833-MYBAPTIST (833-692-2784). To see a doctor on your phone from the comfort and safety of your home, download Baptist Health Care On Demand.