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Wyoming health officials encourage COVID-19 testing

wyoming department of health

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK)-As Wyoming prepares to reopen business, the Department of Health is encouraging anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to get tested.

State Health Officer and Epidemiologist Dr Alexia Harrist said testing is important to help prevent further spread and outbreaks. She said there are different types of testing that may reveal different information and that there is more opportunity for testing available than there have been at other points of the pandemic.

“We want anyone with symptoms that could be COVID-19 to ask about testing,” she said. “Identifying individuals with COVID-19 helps us track this disease. No one should avoid testing out of fear. Knowing what’s going on in Wyoming is good for all of us.”

Anyone with symptoms should call a health care provider for advice and then make arrangements.  Decisions on testing are usually made by health care providers.

Viral and antibody tests are the two primary types of tests available for COVID-19.   “The short answer on the difference between them is a viral test can show if you have a current infection while an antibody test might show if you had a past infection,” Harrist said.

Viral tests are usually taken with swabs from inside the nose.  They are used, primarily, to gather quick results and most important for people who are sick. “If you test negative, you probably were not infected at the time your sample was collected and there is likely another cause of your symptoms. However, it’s also possible your sample was collected early and you could test positive later because it can take up to 14 days after exposure to COVID-19 for someone to become ill,” Harrist said.

Antibody tests involve blood samples. They are used less to determine if someone is sick, but rather to reveal an earlier infection. Not all antibody tests are reliable and it can take one to three weeks for a person’s body to make antibodies.

Harrist emphasized it isn’t known yet if having antibodies to the COIVD-19 virus can protect someone from getting infected again or how long any possible protection might last. “It’s unclear whether COVID-19 antibodies can provide immunity against getting future infections. A positive antibody test result should not be viewed by anyone as a ‘free pass’ or guarantee against new illness,” she said.

Individuals who test negative for COVID-19 with a reliable antibody test probably did not have a previous infection with the virus that has since gone away. “We know many people are curious to know whether an episode of illness they had earlier this year was actually due to COVID-19,” Harrist said.

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