CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina has significantly increased its capacity to test people and better track the spread of the virus.
But even testing has its limitations.
Initially, you could only get a test if you had symptoms such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath.
But what if you’re one of the people who carry the virus but don’t show any symptoms?
Now, you can find out through an antibody test if there’s a chance you already had the virus even without symptoms.
There are all kinds of estimates on the percentage of asymptomatic carriers.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, estimates somewhere between 25% and 50% of people infected, don’t show it.
Joanne Walsh thinks she may have had COVID-19 back in January, around the time of the first official case reported in the United States.
“I was exposed to some international students in my line of work and had all the symptoms of it, but it was too soon,” Walsh said.
She waited for COVID-19 antibody tests.
Among the first to offer one in Charlotte is Novant Health-GoHealth urgent care centers.
The test was developed by Labcorp.
“They can take the antibody test and it will let us know if you have those antibodies to show that your body has developed an immune response, so that’s a huge factor to this,” Kevin Smallman with Novant Health- GoHealth Urgent Care said.
Anyone can get tested, but not if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days, if you been in contact with someone infected with the virus in the last 14 days or you’ve show symptoms of COVID-19 that haven’t improved in the last 10 days, and had a fever over 100.5 for the last three days.
There is one big limitation with the new test.
There are 7 human coronaviruses, some that cause the common cold, and could trigger a positive result.
“It might get confused and pick up that coronavirus antibody that is not COVID-19,” Smallman said.
Testing positive also doesn’t mean you’re immune to it.
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Still, the urgent care centers are seeing a big demand ahead of the launch of the test Thursday.
Some people told Channel 9′s Blaine Tolison that they would only get it to help research.
“From my understanding it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to repeat and get the virus again. So for the sake of science of helping others, to further science, yeah,” resident Kellee Stall said.
Walsh said she’s not rushing out to get it just yet and understands why others will. She just wants them to be informed.
“I think their has to be education,” she said. “It’s great that they’re offering, but i’m a little bit more hesitant to make sure, is it an accurate test? How accurate is it? And has it been approved or not?”
When it comes to whether or not antibody tests work, it’s up for debate.
The Food and Drug Administration is under fire for allowing companies to sell the tests without proving if they work.
The agency has now revised its policy saying manufacturers must include data showing their tests work when requesting emergency use authorization.
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