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COVID-19 Nasal Swab Test Does Not Cause Risk of Infection


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To help control the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended getting a COVID-19 test for people who show symptoms of the disease, have come into contact with someone known to have the disease, or are in vulnerable groups. 

The most common form of testing for the novel coronavirus involves the use of a nasopharyngeal, or nasal, swab. The swab reaches deep into the back of a person’s nose and mouth to collect cells and fluids from the upper respiratory system, which can then be checked with diagnostic tests for the presence of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

The testing procedure involves inserting a 6-inch-long swab into the cavity between the nose and mouth for 15 seconds and rotating it several times. The swabbing is repeated on the other side. The swab is then inserted into a container and sent to a lab for testing.

Dr. Shawn Nasseri, an ear, nose and throat surgeon based in Beverly Hills who has conducted many COVID-19 swab tests, told us in an email that the nasal swab “follows the floor of the nose and goes to where the nose meets the throat, or naso-pharynx.”

Asked if the swab test is safe, Nasseri said, “Absolutely. The biggest risk is discomfort. The rare person — 1 in thousands — passes out from being super sensitive or gets a mild nosebleed. It’s estimated that close to 40 million or more swabs have been performed safely in the U.S. alone.”

But in recent weeks, viral posts on Facebook falsely claim that the nasal swab test can cause serious health issues. One post says, “The stick deep into the nose causes damage to the hamato-encephalic barrier and damages endocrine glands. This test creates an entrance to the brain for every infection.”

The hamato-encephalic barrier, also known as the “blood-brain barrier,” protects the brain from toxins that could be present in the blood.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of epidemiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told us in an email that the Facebook claim “is not true.”

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Nasseri said that “it is incredibly implausible, if not impossible, to cross the skull base and blood-brain barrier with a swab unless someone uses a rigid metal instrument and is pointing the metal object 90 degrees in the wrong direction.”

Dr. Morgan Katz, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, told the Associated Press that the Facebook posts misunderstand what’s happening when the swab test is performed.

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Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 银保监会发布《关于进一步加强金融服务民营企业有关工作的通知》 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “当然在接下来的一段时间中里还有很多事情要解决,还会有更多的推测,更多的享受。祝我们所有的读者度过一个安全愉快的假期,迎来一个崭新快乐的篮球之年。 Business Insider. 15 Apr 2020. 

Dr. Shawn Nasseri.  Ear, nose and throat surgeon. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 3 Aug 2020.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado. Professor of epidemiology, Stanford University School of Medicine. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 3 Aug 2020.

Fauzia, Miriam. “I'm pleased to see manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S., but I don't expect the manufacturing industry to have the galvanic effect on the economy that many hope for. Why? Because automation will sharply erode the number of jobs any factory requires. The disappearance of blue-collar and entry-level jobs is already a problem, and that problem will grow. USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 经济趋稳之下调控趋严 楼市销售仍处高位 New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. 与2013-2014赛季的世界各大足球联赛相比,本届世界杯的场均进球确实更多。荷甲以场均进球3.2个高居欧洲各大联赛之首,德甲则以3.16个紧随其后。上个赛季,其他联赛的场均进球都没有超过2.8个。目前,美国职业足球大联盟的场均进球为2.89个。 Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 二线城市限购再扩围 楼市“银十”会否回归稳定 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 聚焦:LED照明企业最新热点 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. “The Blood-Brain Barrier.” Accessed Aug. 4, 2020.