Wahzhazhe Health Center reports low percentage of COVID-19 test results

As cases of the COVID-19 virus continue to rise in Oklahoma, the Wahzhazhe Health Center is reporting a low percentage of overall cases, in part due to the efforts of contact tracing and having patients quarantine.

According to Dr. Ron Shaw, CEO and Chief Medical Officer for the health center, the contact tracer is tracking daily 81 individuals quarantined or isolated, plus about 38 quarantined children. The individuals quarantined are patients of the health center and Osage Nation employees.

More than 400 individuals were tested at the health center from Aug. 1 through Aug. 17. Shaw said the health center is currently waiting 4-7 days for test results to come back from their lab. The rapid testing is limited by the supply of obtainable reagent kits, he said.

Shaw provided the following breakdown of tests administered during the time period: 

-       In-house Tests: (ID NOW, Rapid tests)           146 tests, 5 were positive

-       RML PCR tests: 284 tests                                9 were positive

-       RML IgG test: (antibody)                                 3 tests, all negative

Rapid testing may provide a fast diagnosis, within 13 minutes or less, but may return false negative results, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, the Oklahoma State Department of Health does not include rapid test results in their daily reporting unless the patient has an additional diagnostic test. The Nation sends test kits to Regional Medical Laboratory and those results are available within 24 hours, according to the RML website.

The RML IgG test can detect antibodies as early as 3 days after the onset of symptoms. According to the RML website, the majority of patients will have detectable IgG antibodies 8-14 days after the onset of symptoms. At the time of 14 days or greater, the sensitivity of the antibody test is 100% and specificity is 99.63%. According to the RML website, the detection of IgG antibodies to the virus only indicates that a person has been exposed to the virus and has mounted an immune response, but it does not confirm protective immunity. 

Shaw said the health center’s contact tracer makes a weekly report to his office, but due to identifying factors within the report regarding Osage Nation employees, he could not release it.

He said the prevalence of COVID among the health center’s tested population is low, at just under 2%. He expects that percentage to increase over the next 3 months.

“This low prevalence in no way diminishes the importance of wearing masks and physically distancing within Osage County,” he said.

With the upcoming flu season expected to be worse than years past due to the added COVID-19 virus, Shaw urged the community to get their flu shots. The Wahzhazhe Health Center will have flu shots available in mid-September, he said.

“A patient may contract both viruses at the same time with worse illness,” Shaw said. “I recommend all Osages 6 months and older to receive influenza vaccinations.”