Written by: Courtney Bibo April 23, 2020
Could a Covid-19 antibody test prove it’s not that deadly?
Information surrounding Covid-19 is changing daily, which makes it hard to keep up. A new study looking at antibodies done by the University of Southern California (USC) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) is shedding some light on how the death rate may have been skewed. Also, we’ll talk about the importance of herd immunity.
What does a Covid-19 antibody test tell us?
The study was done on a representative sample of people in L.A. county. Researchers found that approximately 4.1% of the people had antibodies for Covid-19. What does that mean? If a person has antibodies for something, that means they were somehow exposed to the pathogen (in this case, a virus) at some point in the past. Why is that important? Because if a person has antibodies, when (and if) they come in contact with this virus again, they should be able to fight it off and not get infected again.
A little lesson on herd immunity
The other important thing about people having antibodies for this virus (or any pathogen, for that matter) is the more people that have antibodies, the closer we are to gaining something called herd immunity. What is herd immunity? It’s when a large group of people have antibodies to something and are able to protect others who do not have the antibody. In other words, herd immunity protects the most vulnerable people in our communities.
Some people are prone to getting sick. People on chemo, people who have had organ transplants, or the elderly are a few examples. These people could get deathly ill and even die if they get certain illnesses. Covid-19 is one of those illnesses (so is the flu). The study done by USC and LACDPH is suggesting that many people have had this illness and obviously survived it. As a result, there is more herd immunity. Therefore, more people are benefiting from others having had Covid-19. To put it another way, the more people who get Covid-19 and survive, the more protected everyone else will be.
Let’s talk about death rates
The other important thing about this study is that it’s suggesting the death rate is much lower than we thought. Let me explain. The way you calculate a death rate, is by taking the number of people infected, and dividing it by the amount of people who died from that infection. So, we already know who has died from Covid-19, but we are realizing that many more people were actually infected. In other words, by learning about more people who were infected, the death rate from Covid-19 is going down. That’s great news! That means this virus is not killing nearly as many people as we once thought! Here is a great article on the study that explains things simply.
What’s the takeaway message?
The takeaway message is that we are learning from the antibody test that the death rate from Covid-19 is likely much lower than we previously thought. This means that Covid-19 is much less deadly than we thought. Knowing this means that we should be getting back to our normal lives and interacting with another so that more people can get exposure and build herd immunity.
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