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At some point, more will be known about COVID-19 antibody tests

Going on the offensive against COVID-19 will require knowing more about who has had the disease, perhaps without showing symptoms. To that end, new tests have been developed and are being perfected. Most seem to rely on detecting antibodies the body produces to fight and often defeat certain illnesses.

Many of us would like to know whether the coronavirus has invaded our bodies without displaying symptoms. There are various reasons for desiring that knowledge, including whether we may be imperiling others by serving as carriers for COVID-19. And, as we attempt to jump-start the economy, the information may be critical.

Self-diagnosis kits — think pregnancy tests, for example — are common. They are being marketed for COVID-19. More than 70 companies have notified federal regulators they plan to offer coronavirus antibody tests.

Many of the tests do not need to be administered by health care professionals. Pricking one’s finger, drawing a droplet of blood and rubbing it on a test strip may do the trick.

But will the test you are thinking of ordering from XYZ Company be accurate? Good question.

It is not necessarily the case that federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration check the efficacy of health care products. Some are merely determined to be safe without any checks on whether they work as advertised.

Many of the COVID-19 tests will fall into that category.

Obviously, reputable companies will not be offering faulty tests. But the scope of the epidemic means many firms of which you have never heard will be entering the marketplace. As Eric Blank of the Association for Public Health Laboratories told The Associated Press, “You’ve got a lot of companies marketing a lot of stuff and nobody has any idea of how good it is.”

So, what to do? Normal rules of common-sense buying apply. Companies you’ve heard of should be safe. If you have no knowledge of a firm offering COVID-19 tests, do some research. Ask your health care professionals.

Do not make any spur-of-the-moment purchases, of course — certainly not from telephone salespeople. Do not give out any personal information to them.

At some point, more will be known about the accuracy of COVID-19 antibody tests. Until then, the best advice is to treat them as you have the coronavirus itself: Be careful.

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