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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.

Of course, these same new forces may also trigger a backlash and a reversion to old command-and-control ways of leading. The politicians who dominate the world stage are, depressingly, mostly cut from the old cloth, and the leadership challenges they face, from Brexit to North Korea, are particularly complex.
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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. “政府搬迁”消息令北京通州潞城镇房价大涨 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “父母获得孩子尊重的7种方法 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. “Yes — by an eyelash. Democrats will need to win an additional 24 seats, meaning they will have to hold on to all 12 Democratic districts that Mr Trump won last year and pick up the 23 Republican districts that voted for Hillary Clinton, plus one or two more for good measure. The math is not on the Democrats’ side, but history is. The president’s party almost always loses some House seats in the midterms, and sometimes loses big, especially when the president has an approval rating below 50 per cent. See Barack Obama in 2010. USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 快讯:沪指午前涨超2% 地产板块拉升 New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. 推特方面日前表示,在今年8月弗吉尼亚州夏洛特维尔爆发种族骚乱后,奥巴马发布的一条推文是今年转推量第2多的推文,转推量达170万次以上。 Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 泉州建材联盟合奏产业强音 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 发展住房租赁市场特别是长期租赁 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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