Being at peace with unanswered questions is wisdom passed down to us from our ancestors. We often are so busy with the hustle and bustle of ordinary life that we do not take the time for the big questions in life until a sentinel moment occurs. COVID-19 is sentinel. COVID-19 is a bag of unanswered questions that affect our daily routine – how we shop, socialize and live. Science is working vigorously at answering COVID-19 questions. Tests have been developed to assist medical professionals at determining who is currently sick from COVID-19 and who had COVID-19 in the past. Currently, there are not the resources to test every American today. Everyone should know when it is their time to be tested. Understanding the tests will help you know when it is your time to be tested.
There are two types of tests:
For individuals currently sick
For those who had a COVID-19 like illness but are now recovered
For those who are currently ill, they should contact their provider for a visit. At Hudson Physicians that visit can be an Urgent Care visit or a telemedicine visit via Skype or by phone. Worrisome symptoms or high-risk individuals should go directly to Urgent Care to have their lungs assessed. Mild symptoms can be assessed by a telemedicine visit. Everyone with COVID-19 like symptoms will be offered a nasal swab test (viral testing) to determine if the current symptoms are due to COVID-19.
Most health plans will cover COVID-19 due to recently implemented government relief programs (contact the number on the back of your health insurance card to understand your COVID-19 coverage prior to your appointment).
Those people who had a COVID-19 like illness from January 2020 to 2 weeks ago are eligible for IgG (antibody) testing. When the body encounters invaders (called pathogens like COVID-19 virus), the body creates certain proteins (called antibodies) to attach to the pathogen. When an antibody (also called an immunoglobulin or Ig for short) attaches to a pathogen, the increase in size makes it easier for the immune system to see and destroy. The cells that seek and destroy pathogens are called macrophages- macro means ”big” and phage means “to eat” in Greek; thus, macrophages eat viruses like COVID-19 easier when antibodies are attached to it. The body will make a lot of antibodies to a specific pathogen to make sure it is annihilated. In fact, it will make 2 kinds of antibodies against the same invader – called IgM and IgG. IgM’s are the ferocious antibodies (like mama bears protecting cubs) that are produced at the start of the invasion. IgG’s are the antibodies with good memory (like grandmas who warn us that history may be repeating itself). Currently, there are numerous COVID-19 antibody tests available. The combination IgM/IgG test would intuitively seem the best choice as it looks for early and later antibodies but unfortunately is not very specific to COVID-19 meaning the IgM/IgG test can be positive when a person had a Coronavirus infection that was not of the COVID-19 variety. This is called a false positive test. To avoid this problem, the current best test is the IgG test. When the IgG is positive it means the person had a COVID-19 illness in the past (at least 2 weeks ago or longer).