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HSE launches widespread antibody testing for Irish healthcare workers

Antibody testing determines whether you had Covid-19 in the past and now have antibodies against the virus.

Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE HSE TODAY announced it is starting a new study which will look at the rate of Covid-19 infection among healthcare workers. 

The PRECISE study will look at rates of previous infections in healthcare workers in St James’s Hospital (SJH), Dublin and University Hospital Galway (GUH).

Over the next two weeks, staff in both hospitals will be invited to have a simple blood test to determine the presence of Covid-19 antibodies. The study will be repeated in six months and the data will then compared. 

Antibody testing determines whether you had Covid-19 in the past and now have antibodies against the virus.

Dr Lorraine Doherty, HSE National Clinical Director for Health Protection said the study aims to calculate the prevalence of previous infection in healthcare workers in two hospitals in two distinct areas of the country.

“It will help the health service better understand this new infection, including the risk factors relevant to healthcare workers, for example the areas they work in and the type of patient exposure they have, as well as factors such as their sex, age and living arrangements,” she added.

Dr Doherty added that the study will help the health services to estimate the number of healthcare workers that may have some degree of immunity to infection and those that are still at risk of contracting the virus.

The voluntary tests will also identify the proportion of healthcare staff who have the antibodies present but were asymptomatic and therefore possible unaware of their exposure to the virus. 

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Dr Niamh Allen the study’s primary investigator and Specialist Registrar in Infectious Diseases said: “While some staff may find out that there were antibodies to the Covid-19 virus found in their blood, staff will be advised that this does not mean that they have immunity to the virus and should continue to follow all of the HSE’s public health advice. 

“Anonymised results will be shared with the Department of Health Covid-19 team and the HSE to help them plan and make decisions about how to control the spread of the virus.”

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