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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. 距离远难打理 有景色无配套…… 买房养老 您可瞧好了 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “Temperatures had already risen by 0.8C since the industrial revolution and although last year’s 1C rise may not be repeated every year from now on, scientists said 2016 could turn out to be another exceptionally warm year as the El event continues. 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. “在以结束迫害科索沃境内阿尔巴尼亚族为目的和平谈判破裂后,北约于1999年3月24日开始了轰炸行动。南斯拉夫和科索沃境内的目标均受到了打击,首先是对抗北约战机的塞尔维亚防空网络,接下来是一系列范围更大的目标,包括被指直接参与迫害科索沃人的南斯拉夫军事力量。目标清单中还包括南斯拉夫首都贝尔格莱德境内的政治和军事目标。 USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 财政精准扶贫要找准着力点 New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. “如果30年前的改革是解决意识形态问题,现在则要解决利益问题。改革是调整既得利益,等于拿刀割自己的肉,很痛苦,需要下定决心、坚定信心。” Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 广州增城区重拳整治违法建设 今年已治理违建3853宗 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 市场淡季来临,陶瓷指数下跌 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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