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Serology testing a tool, not a solution for COVID-19: top doctor

FILE - Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy B.C. Government)
Summary

Dr. Bonnie Henry says serology tests will be able to determine past infections not confirmed by a lab

However, such tests may have many limitations because of what is not known about the virus. she says

Henry said priorities will be testing those who think they had the virus

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — As the province inches closer to approving a blood test that can tell us who’s had the coronavirus, B.C.’s top doctor is reminding us the tool will be used to understand COVID-19, not be a solution to stopping it.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday serology tests will be able to determine past infections in those whose results were not confirmed by a lab. However, such tests may have limitations because of what is not known about the virus, she added.

“We’re still trying to figure out is there a specific level that you need to have. For example, we know, for measles, if you have had a level above a certain amount then you are considered immune. We don’t know what that number is for COVID-19.”

Henry said the priority will be testing those who think they had the coronavirus, but were isolated and not tested, as well as those who reported having an illness similar to COVID-19 after the fact.

Another priority will be 1,000 random blood samples taken in March and this week to assess the province’s baseline for testing.

“I think there are some uses of serology testing for investigation of outbreaks that we’ve not yet been able to incorporate into our public health processes,” she said.

Henry said she expects to talk more about testing Thursday, when she is to present more modeling data.

“We are ramping up our capacity for the diagnostic testing that we’re using, and that is really the important thing for this point in terms of diagnosing people and catching them early in the community right now,” she added.

Last month, Henry announced people could volunteer for serology testing in the province.

Health Canada has approved the first COVID-19 serological test for use in the country to detect antibodies specific to the virus in May.