Ask An Expert: Dr. Kwock on testing for coronavirus

The difference between diagnostic and antibody testing

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COVID testing continues to surge, so in this next edition of Ask An Expert, HI Now host Kainoa Carlson is talking to Hawai’i Pacific Health Vice President of Medical Affairs Dr. Douglas Kwock about the difference between diagnostic and antibody testing.

A diagnostic test will determine whether an individual currently has COVID infection or not while an antibody test is designed to determine whether someone has had a past infection or had been exposed to the virus. This test does not tell you whether the person has COVID at the time of taking the antibody test.

“A diagnostic test is the nose swab test. That’s the one that you drive up to a testing site and somebody puts a Q-tip in your nose and swabs it and then sends it off to the lab for processing,” Dr. Kwock explains. “The antibody test is a blood test so that’s where they’re actually drawing blood from you.”

Dr. Kwock says there are rare cases where individuals have been re-infected with COVID, but for the most part he says people have antibody protection.

“Whether that protection affords you from getting re-infected or whether you were to come down with the infection again affords you with a much weaker infection is something that we need to look into more,” he explains.

Dr. Kwock says the CDC has recommendations on clearing somebody who has transmission risk if you do have COVID. There are two categories: One is if you are someone who has had symptoms of COVID-19. If you’re in that category, you’re cleared if it’s been at least 10 days from the onset of your symptoms and at least 24 hours fever free without taking fever medication and your symptoms have improved.

If you’re in the other category where you tested positive for COVID, but you never had any symptoms meaning you’re asymptomatic, then Dr. Kwock says your clearance from transmission risk is basically 10 days from the date of your positive test.