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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. 河北沧州一建材公司未批先建涉环保问题被查 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “据国家统计局上周三发布的调查显示,去年,我国人口总数有所增长,且男女性别比例及国民受教育程度均有所改善。 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. “保罗·乔治,克里斯·保罗,卡梅罗·安东尼,戈登·海沃德,吉米·巴特勒,德里克·罗斯,保罗·米尔萨普,J·J·雷迪克,埃里克·布莱索,德怀特·霍华德……自去年以来,换了东家的球员名单还在不断增加。 USA Today. 9 July 2020.

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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. 智能家居飞速发展 即将“飞入寻常百姓家”? Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 楼市调控来袭 限购前抢闸买房 限购后房价松动 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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