Local paramedic team seeing success with COVID-19 antibody testing

Phoenix Paramedic Solutions brought this test to Tippecanoe County in April. Since then, it has helped more than a thousand people discover if they've been exposed to the virus.

Posted: Jul 3, 2020 11:17 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- Phoenix Paramedic Solutions is finding success with its COVID-19 antibody testing.

The emergency medical service team started administering this test in and around Tippecanoe County in April. Since then, it has helped more than a thousand people discover if they once carried the virus.

"The antibody test lets us know and anyone who gets tested know whether or not they've been exposed to the COVID-19 virus," said Somerville.

On Fridays, Phoenix Paramedic Solution EMS workers conduct the antibody testing outside Calvary Baptist Church in West Lafayette from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participants are pricked in the finger so that the EMS workers can get a small blood sample. The blood is then put on the COVID-19 antibody testing agent. After 10 minutes, a thin line will appear next to letters on the kit that indicate if you have COVID-19 antibodies in your blood.

The test can determine if you were recently infected or if you had the virus a few months prior. Anyone who's curious to know if they had COVID-19 is encouraged to take the test. It costs $50 and you can pre-register or pay on-site. Payment by card or cash is accepted on-site. You can also arrange to have them test you off-site by reaching out to dsomerville@phoenixparamedics.com. 

"The testing is important because it provides both individuals and the community the opportunity to know how widespread the local exposure been," said Somerville. "We feel like it's an important component of the fight against the virus knowing what the rates of exposure are in our community.

The team of paramedics has been testing people for three months. Out of 1,500 people that have been tested, 3.5% came out with positive results for having the virus at some point.

"We've also been asked by a lot of fire departments in the area Danville, Illinois, Indianapolis Fire Department, several manufacturers here locally to provide testing for their associates," said Somerville. "We've gone in and done testing where we've seen a lot of positives in certain locations and then we've gone in and had whole days where we did 40 tests and they were all negative so it just varies."

For those who have tested positive, Somerville said the number of people who say they felt really sick is equal to the number of people who say they felt little to no symptoms.

"The test we're using has about a 95% accuracy, It's been FDA approved and authorized. It's the same test the University of Southern California is using widely in the Los Angeles area."

Somerville said Los Angeles is currently a hotspot for the virus. He said there is not enough research to show if a person who has recovered from the virus becomes resistant to contracting it again, that's why he said it's still important people keep the CDC's recommended safety measures at the forefront.

"Masks are the key, you've got to wear a mask and you've got to do social distancing," said Somerville. "Those are the things that I would stress above all else."

On Friday, the team of paramedics tested 32 people at Calvary Baptist Church. A mother and her daughter were the only two who had positive results indicating they once had the virus. According to Somerville, they both say they had minor symptoms including loss of taste and smell and an aching body.

This test is not for people who are currently feeling COVID-19 symptoms. If you think you have the virus now, you're encouraged to visit a COVID-19 testing site.

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