What’s the difference between COVID-19 diagnostic testing and antibody testing?

There is no hotter topic than COVID-19. Around the world, people are on high alert for the novel coronavirus as the pandemic surges. Testing for the virus has become a key part of the strategy to fight it. Data from COVID-19 diagnostic testing informs not only individual patients but also community health leaders and government officials.

That being said, there is often some confusion surrounding COVID-19 testing. Specifically, many people don’t know the difference between a diagnostic test and an antibody test.

Understanding COVID-19 diagnostic testing

At the time of this writing, there are currently two types of tests related to COVID-19. The first, and the most common, is a diagnostic test. It is the type you’ve probably seen on social media or heard about on the news. To diagnose COVID-19, a sample must be collected. This typically involves inserting a swab into the nose to collect secretions from the respiratory tract.

The sample is then analyzed in a lab where it is tested for the presence of molecular material associated with the virus. If detected, the test is given a positive result.

Velocity offers two COVID-19 diagnostic testing:

  • PCR Test – Results typically 4-6 days performed at a nationally accredited laboratory. Detects genetic material associated with the virus.
  • Antigen Test – Results in 15 minutes performed on-site at Velocity using the Quidel Sofia 2 Analyzer. Detects specific proteins on the surface of the virus.

All tests offered by Velocity Urgent Care are fully authorized by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The coronavirus antibody test is a bit different. Rather than checking for material associated with the virus, it detects antibodies that the body produces in response to it. A positive antibody test means that a person was previously infected with COVID-19—even if they didn’t have symptoms.

Antibodies, also known as an immunoglobulin, are large, Y-shaped proteins produced mainly by plasma cells that are used by the immune system to neutralize pathogens such as pathogenic bacteria and viruses.

It’s worth noting that both types of COVID-19 tests can produce false negatives. For instance, if an antibody test is administered too soon, it may indicate a false negative since levels won’t be high enough to detect.

Who Needs a COVID-19 Test?

In the early days of the pandemic, COVID-19 tests were scarce. That lack of availability led to restrictions on who could get tested and confusion about who needs to be. Fortunately, testing capacities have increased and COVID-19 tests are much more readily available. That being said, they should primarily be reserved for those who are currently experiencing symptoms of

COVID-19, individuals with prolonged exposure to someone who has tested positive, or individuals who need the test for occupational reasons.

COVID-19 symptoms include a fever or chills, a cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sudden loss of taste and/or smell, body aches, fatigue, a sore throat, sinus congestion, or diarrhea.

Are Antibody Tests Important?

While diagnostic tests are more important at this stage of the pandemic, the value of antibody tests shouldn’t be ignored. Data collected from antibody tests can help determine how the virus affects specific communities and groups by looking for patterns of higher infection rates and herd immunity.

Moreover, antibody tests help determine if a person has some degree of protection against COVID-19. Since the virus is so new, research isn’t conclusive about how long immunity lasts. However, recurrent COVID-19 infections are rare. This means that having antibodies likely provides at least some degree of short-term immunity.

Of course, even those with positive antibody tests should still take precautionary measures like wearing a mask and social distancing.

What to Expect During COVID-19 diagnostic testing?

As mentioned, most COVID-19 diagnostic tests involve a nasal swab. A healthcare provider will insert the swab into your nose for about 15 seconds and rotate it around to collect secretions. They’ll then repeat the process in the other nostril.

Though it is less common, diagnostic tests can also be performed with a sample of fluid from the lower respiratory tract (ie. mucus or phlegm from a cough), saliva, or stool.

Those going for a COVID-19 antibody test will need to have a blood sample collected.

Where Can I Get a COVID-19 Test?

At Velocity Urgent Care, we are here for you.

Our network of clinics across Virginia is open for business to meet your healthcare needs. Moreover, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care.

If you think you might be infected with COVID-19, or are experiencing symptoms of coughing, a fever, and/or shortness of breath, Velocity Urgent Care is equipped to evaluate and test you for the virus. For those that want to avoid going to the hospital or the emergency room to get tested, our clinics are a great alternative.

As local primary care offices either close or transition to telemedicine, we understand that certain things can’t be treated over the phone—or through a screen. Whether you have seasonal allergy

symptoms, an earache, a stomachache, a broken bone, or are just feeling under the weather, Velocity Urgent Care is the place to go for fast, safe, and effective treatment.

Don’t put your health at risk by waiting to seek out treatment!

Velocity Urgent Care offers convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during a visit. You can reserve a check-in time online and enter your contact and insurance information using your phone to avoid handling paperwork in the center. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your copay and deductible. All of our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome.

To find out more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.