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UT Austin: 17-22% of Houstonians may have already had COVID-19

Probably the most common way to find out if you've had COVID-19, is see if you have the antibodies to the virus.

HOUSTON, Texas — Estimates from University of Texas researchers show up to a fifth of all Houstonians may have already been infected with coronavirus – many of them having no idea.

To this date,156,368 people in these nine Houston area counties have been confirmed with COVID-19. That includes Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton Counties. 

That means they took a test and it came back positive.

And with approximately 6,390,345 people living in those counties, that means the confirmed infection rate is about 2.4% of the population.

But what about those who didn’t take a test or were asymptomatic?

New estimates from researchers at UT in Austin believe the number of those infected in those counties is actually about 10 times that, anywhere from 17 to 22%.

Probably the most common way to find out if you've had COVID-19, is see if you have the antibodies to the virus.

“If you have had COVID, you have a particular kind of antibody," Dr. Susan Rossman, chief medical officer with Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, said. “Antibodies are proteins that our body makes to fight the infection.”

The Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center has done to date more than 71,000 antibody tests, a test they do for free when you donate blood. 

The results come back in about seven days, and if you’re confirmed to have COVID-19 antibodies, you may be asked to return.

“For our purposes, we are using it to recruit people, screen people who might be able to donate convalescent plasma," Dr. Rossman said.

The plasma will be given to someone currently infected.  

“We think it is helpful in treating the disease, it’s still under investigation, but it certainly seems to be. We’ve had a lot of requests for it," Dr. Rossman said.

You can only get the antibody test after you’ve been cleared of coronavirus, and the antibodies could be in your body for a few months or even longer.  

But there’s one thing you should know. If you have the antibodies, that doesn’t mean you’re immune from getting coronavirus again.