Two Types of COVID-19 Testing Available at Morris Hospital
May 28, 2020, MORRIS, IL – Two types of COVID-19 testing are available through Morris Hospital – the nasopharyngeal (nasal) swab viral test used to determine if someone is currently infected with COVID-19, and the Serum COVID IgG test used to determine if a person has had a past exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
According to Dr. Farrukh Aijaz, Pathologist and Medical Director of the Morris Hospital Laboratory, the nasal swab test requires collecting a sample from the patient’s respiratory system through a swab inserted in the nasal cavity. The swab is then analyzed in the lab for viral genetic material. Test results may be available within 1 hour or up to 3 days, depending whether the test is processed in the Morris Hospital Lab or sent out to a reference lab.
While Morris Hospital’s testing capability was limited in the early days of the pandemic to those who were ill enough to seek care in the Emergency Department, today Morris Hospital is testing symptomatic and asymptomatic patients without exposure, especially healthcare workers, patients age 65 and over, patients with qualifying risk factors, all patients admitted to the hospital, all patients undergoing an elective surgery or procedure, and other patients who qualify under the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines.
The nasal swab is performed as an outpatient test with a physician’s order. Patients are given a scheduled time and instructed to pull up to the former outpatient entrance at the hospital and remain in their vehicle while lab personnel administer the nasal swab.
“Individuals who test positive are a source of infection and need to self-isolate to prevent spreading the virus to others,” Dr. Aijaz says. “This is very important, as each of us has a responsibility to ourselves and to the community.”
Dr. Aijaz cautions that, as with any test, there is the possibility of false negatives with COVID-19 nasal swab test depending on the quality of the specimen collection and appropriate transport of the specimen to the lab. He recommends all patients who undergo testing to follow the guidance of their physician even if the test comes back negative.
“If someone has typical symptoms of COVID-19 and the test comes back negative, that does not mean that it is truly negative,” Dr. Aijaz says. “If the physician has a high degree of suspicion, sometimes we’ll retest with a different testing mechanism.”
Along with the nasal swab, the Morris Hospital Laboratory also offers the Serum COVID IgG test to determine if a person has had a past exposure to the COVID-19 virus. This test involves a blood draw and is available as an outpatient laboratory test for individuals who are at least 10 days past the first onset of symptoms.
The IgG antibody test requires a physician’s order and can be scheduled at a Morris Hospital laboratory collection site in Channahon, Diamond-Coal City, Dwight, Morris or Ottawa. Results are usually available within 1-2 days.
Outside of donating plasma to help those currently infected, Dr. Aijaz says the benefits of knowing whether a person has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus are unknown because this is a very new disease. He believes it’s too early to know if having antibodies provides any substantial long-term protection from reinfection.
“The jury is still out on how this virus will behave in the future,” Dr. Aijaz says. “Someone who has the IgG antibody test and tests positive would still need to follow all the precautions and assume that they are not protected.”
Still, Dr. Aijaz believes the antibody test can give clarity on how far COVID-19 has reached into the community.
“I believe the antibody test will definitely have usage in a broader context of surveillance and tracing how many people the virus has already infected in the community,” Dr. Aijaz says.
Above all, Dr. Aijaz emphasizes that testing helps pinpoint current sources of infection and reduces the spread of the virus. Morris Hospital’s testing capabilities have become advanced enough that they are even assisting neighboring hospitals with COVID-19 testing.
“If you look at our trajectory within the last four weeks, we have made great strides in testing. Not many hospitals our size have the testing capacity that we have,” says Dr. Aijaz. “The main theme of all testing is to find out who is infected, how to protect the population from those who are infected, and then how to treat those who are infected.”
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