In mid-April I got a COVID-19 antibody test.
Now, it wasn’t without reason. I was sure I had contracted COVID-19 in November on a trip to Boston. I had nary a sniffle when I left. But the day before I flew home, I came down with a 104-degree fever and chills that did not quit and was diagnosed the next day with pneumonia. My flu test came back negative, I did not respond to antibiotics, I couldn’t breathe without labor and coughing, and I was nearly hospitalized. I had no energy for weeks.
Had all these symptoms appeared a couple of months later, I would have been a candidate for coronavirus testing. Fast forward to March. As the pandemic raced ahead, I kept thinking back to November.
Now, I’m a skeptic by nature (which is probably how I ended up in journalism), and given my job here at the Texas Medical Association, I knew all the red flags about early serological tests not being reliable, most of them rushed to market, etc. (At the time I tested, only one was FDA-approved, not the one I took; as I write this, only four.)
But I’m also human and admit I was looking for some sense of certainty. I wanted to prove myself right. I wanted to protect my family. And I wanted go out in the world again and feel protected.
Could one little antibody test give me that confidence? Turns out, no.
One finger prick and 15 minutes later, I walked away with no answers. Negative. But was the test wrong? Did the antibodies wear off? Was I wrong about my past illness? Could I still be walking around asymptomatic harming other people? Even a positive test result would leave me with some of the same questions.
We’re all looking for answers, but what we need to do is look to the science, look to our trusted leaders in the medical community. That’s why I’m grateful TMA has a COVID-19 Task Force dedicated to sorting through the wealth of information and misinformation surrounding this new disease. That’s why I’m grateful Gov. Greg Abbott is partnering with medicine in his decision making.
There is a lot of uncertainty right now. But there is certainty in science. From now on, I’m sticking with the science.
Tex Med. 2020;116(6):2
June 2020 Texas Medicine Contents
Texas Medicine Main