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.
|What does it test||If you have COVID-19||If you may have had or were exposed to COVID-19|
|Who should get the test||Anyone 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 administered||Swab of your nose/nasal passage||Blood draw|
|What a positive results means||You have COVID-19||Your body produced antibodies to fight off COVID-19|
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. Due to a high expected number of requests, 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)
A patient’s insurance company will be billed for a blood draw and antibody testing. Under the CARES Act, health insurance plans cannot assess a cost share to their members.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your insurance company will be billed for a blood draw and antibody testing. Under the CARES Act, health insurance plans cannot assess a cost share to their members. Patients are not required to pay in advance for COVID-19 testing, treatment or follow-up care with a UW Health provider. While patients may be billed for these services later, UW Health does not want anyone who is recommended for testing to postpone testing or treatment due to concerns about cost.
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.
Sign up for MyChart:
- Sign up at uwhealthmychart.org: Instantly activate your account by going to uwhealthmychart.org:
- Select Sign Up Now
- Next, select Sign Up Online
- Then select 3rd Party Identity Validation.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.