WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The American Red Cross says COVID-19 antibodies found in blood from donors show a steady increase. After processing just under one and one-half million donations since June, the organization said they see an overall 2-3% positivity rate for antibodies, and the number is climbing weekly. But what does that mean in the long term?
The level may not be as high as some as hoped or as low as some predicted, but the Red Cross says that’s a good thing. The higher those numbers from tests climb, the more it seems we’re “getting a handle” on this virus and its grip on our everyday lives. Many of the donors who helped uncover this evidence were not even aware they had contracted the virus.
“We’re seeing, probably, quite a few that may have had the minimally symptomatic courses and now are somewhat surprised to learn that they have antibodies,” said Dr. Matthew Coleman, Regional Medical Director of the American Red Cross. “We have a strong number of people that either did test positive and knew they tested positive or had a very, very high suspicion that they had a course of COVID-19, and now that they’re recovered, come to donate blood.”
Antibody testing has uncovered previously unknown data about the population antibody count that supports and expands the scientific and medical communities’ research to stop or reduce virus risk.
“I don’t think we had any idea what our general population antibody, presence, or level might be. So the first thing that this has done is allow us to have the beginnings of a picture of where the United States population currently is,” said Coleman.
With that information, the medical community can understand the future effects of COVID-19 on humans, even after a vaccine, like a speculated COVID season. Many respiratory viruses follow seasonal patterns.
Experts say many influenza types and types of coronaviruses that cause common colds are known to peak during winter in temperate regions and circulate year-round in tropical areas.
“I think that being able to start in the summertime when we did will give us a good baseline with which we can compare will what happens in this disease as we enter cooler weather, more traditional virus phase and will give us the opportunity to be able to compare and contrast that to the warmer months,” Coleman told KSN. “This virus is probably not going anywhere, anytime soon, and so we’ll be dealing with it for a long time to come and we’ll need to know if we need to be preparing for a COVID season like we talk about a flu season these days.”
Antibody testing research has also indicated that African Americans and those with O blood types seem more likely to carry COVID-19 antibodies, African Americans up to 4-5%.
The Red Cross said, though the data is compelling, there is still a broader picture to understand when breaking down this information. Experts say these instances are more likely due to the heightened contraction by circumstantial exposure of coronavirus by African Americans and people of color and the extensive populous of the common O blood type.
The American Red Cross and many other medical and health experts are preaching caution during the flu season, urging everyone to get immunizations this winter. The flu vaccine will not prevent its recipient from getting the coronavirus but will reduce the risk of contracting other seasonal illnesses that could break down the immune system and make the population more susceptible to the virus.