Salvador Perez got really sick in April. He’s 53 and spent weeks isolated in his room in his family’s Chicago apartment, suffering through burning fevers, shivering chills, intense chest pain and other symptoms of COVID-19.
“This has been one of the worst experiences of his life,” says Perez’s daughter, Sheila, who translated from Spanish to English for an interview with NPR. “He didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Perez recovered and now wants to go back to work as a chef at a Chinese restaurant. But his boss told him he needs a test — an antibody test — first. So he found a place to get one and tested positive. His blood indeed has antibodies to the novel coronavirus — proteins that his immune system produced when it fought off the pathogen.
“He feels great that he can get … back to work, since we haven’t really paid our bills,” Sheila Perez says. “And he feels great that he can start doing what he did before the virus again.”
But her father is also nervous. His doctor told him the antibodies might give him some protection against catching the virus again but also stressed that’s far from guaranteed.
“He’s anxious that he doesn’t want to get sick. He’s kind of scared of going back to work because … he might go through it again,” his daughter says.
Salvador Perez is right to be worried. It’s still not certain that antibodies measured by such a test would protect him from catching the virus again. And if the antibodies are protective, it’s unknown how strong that protection might be or how long it might last. There are also questions about the reliability of many antibody tests being sold.