Antibody Testing for Patients and the Community

UW Health is offering COVID-19 antibody testing for our patients and community members.

What is the Antibody Test

The antibody test detects whether your body has produced the antibodies needed to clear an infection and protect you from re-infection. Antibody tests are blood tests that can tell if you may have been previously exposed to COVID-19. The antibody test is NOT a test for COVID-19. Any patients showing even one symptom of COVID-19 should call their provider to inquire about a COVID-19 test.

COVID-19Antibody Test
What does it testIf you have COVID-19If you may have had or were exposed to COVID-19
Who should get the testAnyone with any COVID-19 symptoms

UW Health is currently unable to test asymptomatic patients. Visit Public Health Madison & Dane County for free community testing information.
Anyone who thinks they may have been previously exposed
How is the test administeredSwab of your nose/nasal passageBlood draw
What a positive results meansYou have COVID-19Your body produced antibodies to fight off COVID-19
The difference between the COVID-19 test and the antibody test.

The antibody test is intended for those who think they were exposed to COVID-19 and no longer have symptoms (or never had symptoms).  It is not yet known whether those with COVID-19 antibodies have long-term immunity against re-infection. So, whether a patient’s antibody test returns positive or negative, the recommendations are the same. Continue to protect yourself by:

  • Practicing physical distancing
  • Washing hands often
  • Avoiding close contact
  • Covering mouth and nose with a face covering when around others
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and items

How to Schedule an Antibody Test

Patients and community members must schedule an appointment. Those with MyChart are strongly encouraged to schedule a test that way for the fastest turnaround.

To schedule an appointment:

  • Log in to your MyChart account at uwhealthmychart.org and schedule an appointment by using the “COVID-19 Antibody Testing Scheduling and Results” blue button.
  • Those who do not currently have a MyChart account can sign up by going to at uwhealthmychart.org and selecting “Sign Up Now.”
  • Those unable to sign up for a MyChart account can call (608) 720-6161 to schedule.

There are four locations for the test:

  • University Hospital (600 Highland Ave)
  • UW West Clinic (451 Junction Rd)
  • UW East Clinic (5249 East Terrace Dr)
  • The American Center Hospital (4602 Eastpark Blvd)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an antibody test?

An antibody test (also referred to as a serological test) detects your body’s immune response to infection. When you have an infection, your body makes antibodies to clear the infection and protect you from re-infection with the same germ. Antibody tests can tell us if you were previously infected with a specific germ.

How is this antibody test different than the test currently used to diagnose COVID-19?

The COVID-19 diagnostic test (nasal pharyngeal swab) detects the virus directly and can identify a current infection. The antibody test does not detect the virus – it detects antibodies that your body makes in response to infection.

I currently have a respiratory illness. Should I get the antibody test?

No. Please contact your doctor’s office for evaluation to determine if you might require a test for COVID-19 current infection. People with at least one mild symptom of potential COVID-19 can get tested at UW Health. Please call your provider, send a MyChart message or call our hotline at (608) 720-5300 if you have any of the symptoms. Do not show up to urgent care or emergency department settings looking for a test.

If this antibody test cannot diagnose COVID-19 infection, why are we using it?

Since some individuals with COVID-19 infection have extremely mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all, the antibody test can help identify those who were infected but didn’t know it.

I tested positive for COVID-19 with the diagnostic test. Can I still get the antibody test?

Yes, but you must wait at least 30 days after your diagnostic test was positive to ensure your body has had enough time to generate an antibody response.

How long after infection would my antibody test turn positive?

It will likely take at least two weeks to develop a detectable antibody response using this test. Some people may take up to a month to develop a detectable antibody response.

I tested negative for COVID-19 using the diagnostic test. Can I still get the antibody test?

Yes.

Is there a cost associated with the antibody test?

COVID-19 antibody testing is only covered by insurance when it is deemed medically necessary. In the case that your insurance company does not cover the cost of antibody testing, you will be billed the cash price of $117.

If I choose to get an antibody test, how do I arrange it?

The simplest way to schedule a test and receive results quickly is via MyChart. Sign up at uwhealthmychart.org. Those unable to sign up for a MyChart account can call (608) 720-6161, Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm to schedule a test.

How do I get my results?

Sign up for MyChart:

  1. Sign up at uwhealthmychart.org: Instantly activate your account by going to uwhealthmychart.org:
    1. Select Sign Up Now
    2. Next, select Sign Up Online
    3. Then select 3rd Party Identity Validation.
    4. Follow the process to validate your identity. After the validation process is complete, you will be able to access your MyChart account. You may also choose U.S. Mail if you would like an activation letter mailed to your home.
  2. Sign up at any clinic location: You can obtain an activation code at any clinic location. No appointment is needed. Ask any receptionist for assistance. For your security, photo identification is required.

If you don’t have MyChart, you will receive a phone call. Our staff will try to call you three times. If we cannot reach you, a letter will be sent to your home address. Results should be available in 3-5 business days.

What does my antibody test result mean?

Positive result

A positive antibody test result means it is likely that you had COVID-19 in the past. The test cannot tell when or where you became infected. It is not yet known whether long-lasting immunity will occur. Continue to protect yourself by washing your hands often, avoiding close contact, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others, cover coughs and sneezes, and clean and disinfect.

Negative result

A negative antibody test result means you very likely have not been infected with the COVID-19 virus. Continue to protect yourself by washing your hands often, avoiding close contact, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others, cover coughs and sneezes, and clean and disinfect.

If my antibody test is positive, do I need to be off work?

Not unless you are currently ill. The antibody test indicates past infection. Depending on when you are tested, it is possible that you are developing antibodies while you are still ill. Only the diagnostic test for COVID-19 can be used to identify active infection.

If my antibody test is positive, does that mean I’m immune to COVID-19 and can never get it again?

A positive antibody tests indicates that you were exposed to COVID-19 and your immune system responded. It is not yet known whether long-lasting immunity to COVID-19 occurs after infection.

What does it mean if I had a negative diagnostic test (nasal pharyngeal swab) for COVID-19 but my antibody test (blood draw) is positive?

A positive antibody test after a negative diagnostic test could mean a couple of things. While the sensitivity of our diagnostic test is very high, there is always the possibility of a false negative. A more likely possibility is that you did not have active infection at the time the diagnostic test was performed.