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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.”

However, respondents also noted that social media has caused them to read fewer books, suffer from worse eyesight, sleep less and maintain less privacy, among other concerns.
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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. 广州:租赁量或呈短期回升态势 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “The impact will also ripple out to some net commodity importers, Mr Williams believes, with higher commodity prices likely to boost the price of resource-intensive manufactured goods such as steel, bolstering the value of exports from the like of South Korea. 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. “发型。略长的卷发——蛤?你不是自来卷哦?小可怜,那你只好每晚带着卷发夹入睡了。 USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 马明哲:几年前就预测到利率拐点 提前部署投资 New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. 不会。华尔街策略师预测美国政府的10年期借贷成本将在未来一年攀升至3%以上,这话就像尴尬的办公室聚会一样是圣诞节那段时间的固定节目。鉴于美联储退出量化宽松和美国减税,今年的预测看起来更有可能实现。然而,压低通胀和长期债券收益率的长期重大因素依然存在,并且仍然被低估。2018年美联储将至少加息三次,但10年期收益率不会突破3%。 Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 抓住机遇 “一带一路”市场成我国led产品出口新蓝海 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 多地对“租房贷”开展调查!长租公寓付款过程有哪些“坑”? Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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