Avera offering local antibody testing

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Press Release) – “Avera St. Lukes Laboratory is proud to offer patients a new tool in the fight against COVID-19,” said Thomas Buttolph, MD MPH, Medical Director, at Avera St. Luke’s.  The laboratory is now offering antibody testing for COVID-19, a direct-to-consumer blood test available through Avera QuickLabs walk-in locations.

“Antibody tests – also known as IgG or serology tests — may detect whether someone has been exposed to COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins in the blood that the body’s immune system uses to fight viruses and bacteria,” said David Basel, MD, physician and Vice President of Avera Medical Group Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group.

It’s important to note that the antibody test is not a test for active COVID-19 infection, which is done via a nasal swab. “For example, if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, this is not the appropriate test to see if you have the virus. This test will not show if someone currently has COVID-19,” Basel said.

Antibodies show up in the blood of someone who has already recovered from COVID-19, or in someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past but never developed symptoms.

Testing for antibodies is new and its usefulness is still being evaluated. “We don’t know yet whether having antibodies means that a person is immune to COVID-19,” Basel said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says antibody tests are most useful in watching the spread of COVID-19, as these tests can show how many people in a given group or area might have been infected. The CDC does not recommend that antibody tests be used in making health care decisions.

Direct-to-consumer COVID-19 antibody tests are not covered by health insurance, and Avera QuickLabs will not send in claims for these tests. However, these tests are reimbursable through flexible spending accounts (FSA) or health savings accounts (HSA). The $80 fee for the test is payable at the time of the test.

To be in compliance with social distancing, it is requested that consumers/patients call 605-622-5546 to schedule a time to present to the laboratory located on the east side of the Avera St. Luke’s campus (Door 2).

The antibody test involves a quick blood draw performed by a trained professional. Results take up to 24 hours to appear in the patient’s AveraChart electronic medical record, and also will be mailed out within a few days.

There are three possible results:

  • Reactive (positive): suggests but does not confirm the person might have been exposed to COVID-19 and has developed an immune response.
  • Equivocal: test shows a small amount of antibodies, but not enough for a “reactive” result.
  • Non-reactive (negative): test shows no exposure. “It also indicates a person remains vulnerable to the virus,” Buttolph says.

“Before having this test, people should understand that a ‘reactive’ or positive result does not mean a person definitely has immunity to COVID-19 and will not become ill with the virus,” Basel said. “If you are having possible symptoms of COVID-19, we do not recommend this test. Instead, it’s important to call 1-877-AT-AVERA or your local clinic for directions on what to do.” Symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea or vomiting, loss of sense of taste or smell, and sore throat.

“Regardless of results, we advise people to continue to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask when out in public, maintain a 6-foot distance from others in public, avoid crowds, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands often,” Basel said.