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Woodbury County leads Northwest Iowa in COVID-19 antibody tests
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Woodbury County leads Northwest Iowa in COVID-19 antibody tests


This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. 

SIOUX CITY -- More people have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies in Woodbury County than in all the other counties in Northwest Iowa combined. 

A total of 108 people in the county have tested positive for antibodies for the novel coronavirus as of Sunday evening, according to data from the Iowa Department of Public Health. Woodbury County also leads the region in positive COVID-19 tests. 

In Sioux County, which has the second-highest antibody tally in the region, 39 people reportedly have them. In Plymouth County, 19 people have them, followed by 13 in Dickinson County. In each of the other counties in the region, fewer than 10 have tested positive for antibodies. 

In Buena Vista County, which has the second-highest tally of known COVID-19 infections in the region, only two have tested positive for antibodies. 

Antibody tests work somewhat differently than tests for the novel coronavirus itself. Blood is drawn for an antibody test, to determine if antibodies (agents in the blood thought to protect against future infections) are present. A test for the virus, usually taken via a swab through the nose, determines whether the individual has the virus presently in their system. 

The presence of COVID-19 antibodies likely means a person either had, or presently has, the virus in their system.

Testing for antibodies is commonly a voluntary undertaking by those who are concerned or curious about whether they were infected. Some may have had a mild illness but were never tested for the novel coronavirus.

A CDC-supported study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that, based on antibody data, many more people likely had the novel coronavirus than was known officially. Many of those who tested positive for the antibodies had only a very mild illness, or none at all, and were never tested for the virus itself during the course of their infections. 

Antibodies are generally taken as a marker of immunity against a pathogen, though the authors of the JAMA study cautioned that this hasn't yet been established with COVID-19. 

"At present, the relationship between detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 and protective immunity against future infection is not known," the authors wrote. SARS-CoV-2 is a name for the novel coronavirus not often used in common parlance. 

The Siouxland District Health Department reported another 10 positive virus tests in Woodbury County on Sunday, out of a total of 113 tests conducted, for a positivity rate of about 8.8 percent.

Since the beginning of the outbreak more than four months ago, a total of 3,540 people in Woodbury County have tested positive, according to IDPH data as of Sunday evening. (Daily coronavirus data from the Iowa Department of Public Health is usually somewhat out of sync with Siouxland District Health's daily reporting.) 

Of the county's total known infections, a total of 3,181 (about 89.8 percent) are now considered recovered. The percentage of recoveries in the county has sagged somewhat in recent weeks as more people have tested positive. 

An additional COVID-19 death was recorded this weekend in Plymouth County, bringing the death toll there to seven. 

Most counties in Northwest Iowa and Southeast South Dakota recorded less than 10 new coronavirus infections this weekend, except for O'Brien and Sac counties, which tallied none. 

The health department of Dakota County does not report new coronavirus infections on the weekends, and neither does the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department, which represents Cedar, Dixon, Thurston and Wayne counties.

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