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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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神经系统科学家发现了小脑的一项全新功能。长期以来人们一直认为小脑基本上与意识直觉等活动无关,它的主要作用是协调站立、呼吸等基本的身体活动,然而,实际上小脑在影响人类行为上也发挥着重要作用。

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. 房地产O2O平台重建中介生态 拼服务降费用 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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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. “Beyoncé featuring Nicki Minaj “Flawless (Remix)” (Parkwood/Columbia) USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 北京市住建委:2017年北京市住宅新开工面积1226.7万平方米 同比增长1.4% New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. Yes. Mrs May lost most of her authority with the bungled snap election. But the past few months have been kinder. Sealing a Brexit divorce deal has ensured short-term job security. So until Brexit is formally complete in 2019, or an appealing alternative emerges, the Conservative party will keep her where she is. Remainers and Leavers alike wish to avoid a civil war that would be sparked by moving against her. What was thought to be an unsustainable position is proving surprisingly sustainable. Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 监管继续趋严,地产商城投平台境外发债受限 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 履霜而坚冰至 家居业的“冬天”要来了? Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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