BY MATTHEW CHOI TAITANO
Whether you were one of the 821 people on island who had flu in the latter half of 2019 or early in 2020 — or were sick this year — you might wonder if you actually were infected with COVID-19.
There is a test for that.
Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. in Hawaii has been using recently developed antibody (or serology) tests to check if people in Guam were infected with COVID-19.
“DLS can do the antibody test by blood draw with a doctor’s order. It’s $40 only. Flat [for] anyone,” said Dr. Thomas Shieh of the Shieh Clinic.
A Journal source who declined to be identified took the antibody or serology test through a referral from the American Medical Center and was charged $40. That person said the test was due to provide a result after about a week. The individual had been sick in January, then tested negative in June.
Shieh tested negative for COVID-19 on his PCR swab test at the Seventh-day Adventist Clinic and on his serology test at DLS as well.
Shieh said majority of the people getting tested have zero symptoms. He said they are taking the test for a reason. “I think because [the governor has] scared them to death, without a clear guide.”
One source for information on the tests is the Food and Drug Administration’s website, which states there are two different types of tests for COVID-19 — diagnostic tests and antibody tests. A diagnostic test, either a PCR test or an antigen test, can show if an individual has an active coronavirus infection.
An antibody test, on the other hand, looks for antibodies that are made by the immune system in response to a threat, such as a specific virus.
“The only way to determine those who have been asymptomatic for weeks [with a positive] PCR test is to test their blood for matured antibodies, and if their antibodies are positive more than likely they are not infectious,” said Shieh.
Shieh said it is crucial for certain demographics to get tested.
“In my opinion, at the current time, anyone who is asymptomatic for over four to six weeks and [tests] PCR positive [should] get the antibody testing to see if they are truly actively infectious or past infectious. But really, anyone who would like to see if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past can get tested,” he said.
Regarding demands for testing and educating the public about testing, Shieh said, “I have, and others have already informed the governor. NYC and the military are doing antibody testing. This is critical to separate for current active infections versus those who have been exposed and are not actively infectious.”
Shieh also said, “If we don’t just to say we have ‘active positives,’ [this will] provide an inaccurate count because [medical professionals] don’t know if patients are truly actively positive infectious or past infectious and not infectious. This is especially true for those who are over four weeks and [have] been asymptomatic.”
Express Care Health and Skin Center also has antibody tests in the form of a “noninvasive finger prick” for $45 with results given in 15 minutes.
As for test kits at clinics, Shieh said, “The antibody kits are not as good as the DLS Roche antibody test,” which according to the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, has “a specificity greater than 99.8% and a sensitivity of 100%.”
In addition, Naval Hospital Guam is looking for people who have had the virus and can donate plasma. The standard eligibility requirements to donate plasma is anyone who is at least 17 years old, weighs at least 110 pounds and is in good health. mbj