UAB Doctor Encourages Tests Despite CDC Guideline

Coronavirus. Source: CDC.

A UAB infectious disease doctor weighed in today on a guideline released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that people exposed to COVID-19 should not be tested if they do not have symptoms of the virus.

“It is really extreme to say that people without symptoms do not need to be tested,” said Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “We know that 40% of the people with COVID are asymptomatic and are highly likely to pass the virus to other people.”

She said the guidelines were updated because some states and regions of the country do not have enough testing.

But, she said, testing is to determine “who has the infection and knows it, and who has the infection but still feels fine. The reason to test is to stop that spread.”

A number of states refused to adhere to the guideline update, and Thursday the CDC director clarified the update but did not alter the recommendations on the website

Dionne-Odom also said she found “curious” studies that have found that the known case rates of the virus are higher in women, but the death rates in men are higher.

“We know the immune response rate is stronger in women,” she said, even among those older than 65 and into their 90s. She said women’s bodies also identify and clear the virus more quickly. Researchers continue to study the phenomenon.

Here are more highlights from Friday’s press conference.

The bad news: 

  • There is no magic moment when mask-wearing and other precautions against the virus will cease until a vaccine is found, Dionne-Odom said. The virus has been with us for eight months, since Jan. 20.
  • No one can assume that they are protected if they have had the virus.
  • Doctors do not know whether convalescent therapy plasma is better or worse for people with early signs of the virus. The therapy — dubbed hope, blood and a chance — is a blood donation from a COVID survivor in hopes of transferring his disease-fighting antibodies to another. The studies continue.

The good news:

  • Since Gov. Kay Ivey ordered the public to wear masks on July 14, the state has gone from a high of 2,000 to 500 cases reported daily; and UAB Hospital’s COVID patient count has dropped from 126 daily to 51 today.
  • The influenza virus first appears for the season in the Southern Hemisphere, where reports, such as one from Brazil, say there are low counts of the flu. “We are encouraged by what we are seeing from our southern neighbors,” Dionne-Odom said, but she stressed the importance of everyone getting a flu shot.
  • The COVID mortality rate has declined with the use of ventilators; and from doctors gaining knowledge as to whether a symptomatic person should be admitted to a hospital, when to use a breathing tube and when to let the patient recover on their own.
  • There is still hope for Labor Day and football watching get-togethers if the gatherings can be held outside and masks worn when people from outside the household are present.