Antibody testing made available across Erie County

May 19, 2020

Erie County is starting to move aggressively into antibody testing of residents.

Antibody testing is not a test to spot people who are infected with the coronavirus. Instead, it tries to spot those who have been exposed in the immediate past.

It gives some clues on how many residents have actually been infected, since scientists say the number infected is much higher than the number of diagnosed infections. Some people show no signs of the virus, but can still infect others.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said the number of given antibody tests has been small so far.

"What proportion of people in our community that were tested may have had an infection in the past, whether they were symptomatic or not? As of the end of last week, there have been a total of 26,018 antibody tests done among Erie County residents and, of those, about 7.7% have been positive," Burstein said.

Over time, there will be clinics across the county for people ages 11 and older to receive the antibody test. 

"These are going to be scheduled visits and so we are going to need people to call and make an appointment. They are going to be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. We're going to be rotating these clinics throughout the county so, by the end of four weeks time, there will have been a clinic near you," Burstein said.

However, the health commissioner said residents should not come in if they feel ill.

"Most people develop a good level of antibodies that can be detected by testing after three weeks. So if you have symptoms in the past 1-2 weeks, it's probably too soon to get an antibody test," she said. "You really should wait at least three weeks after the onset of symptoms to get an antibody test, to look for antibodies after an infection."

A key difference between the test for the virus and for the antibodies is that the virus test involves a nasal swab, while the antibody test is a blood test.