Blood testing for COVID-19 now available in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Doctors in the Birmingham area are performing their very first COVID-19 blood tests.

The test checks if patients have the virus and if they’ve developed antibodies against it. When patients are tested by a nasal swab for COVID-19, it can take 24 to 48 hours to get results. Now that some doctors are offering blood testing, you get your results back in about 10 minutes.

Tim Norris tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks ago. He said his initials symptoms were fever and fatigue.

“I felt bad, very bad, normal flu-like symptoms,” said Norris.

His fever continued to climb, prompting him to call his doctor.

“I just thought I had a cold. Mild temperature. Until I got up to 102, then I thought I ought to come see Dr. Bentley.”

Tim Norris speaks to CBS 42 Reporter Malique Rankin about his COVID-19 symptoms.

Norris is now symptom-free and not believed to be contagious. Dr. Amy Bentley Illescas brought him back into her practice to administer her first COVID-19 blood test.

“The great thing about this blood test is that it’s minimally painful, just a little finger prick, a couple of drops of blood, and within 10 minutes, we’re getting a result,” said Dr. Amy Illescas, a board-certified internist.

Norris has been cleared to return to work. He said he is glad to being feeling like himself again. “I think the good Lord has watched over me,” said Norris.

In the photo above, Norris’ test is on the left. Dr. Amy tested herself, her test is on the right. The IgM shows if a patient was recently infected with COVID-19. The IgG indicates if an immunity to the virus has developed.

“With his [IgG] being faint, I think it’s reasonably safe to assume that he’s no longer contagious and he’s probably immune,” said Dr. Amy. “But you have to understand that there is a grey area and darker lines like you see on his IGM are indicative of higher antibody counts. The absence of lines, as you see on mine, will tell you there’s no protection that’s been conferred.”

While doctors still work to understand more about COVID-19 and the immunity of recovered patients, Dr. Amy says there is no guarantee you won’t get the virus twice.

“If the strain mutates, just like the flu can mutate, just like a vaccine would no longer be protective, a prior infection might not be protective either,” said Dr. Amy.

Over the weekend, the FDA announced the COVID-19 blood kits will now only be sold to hospitals. Dr. Amy said she can still administer her remaining tests as needed, but for now, she won’t be able to order more.


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