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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. 绿色建材前景广阔 建材企业应以技术创新谋“转型” Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “The catwalk queen and reality star, 22, topped the annual Forbes list for the first time with earnings of $22 million over the past 12 months. 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. “很多明星获得的小金人都被放在了父母身边,安吉丽娜·朱莉(Angeline Jolie)已故的母亲多年来一直保存着女儿因影片《女生向前走》(Girl)获得的最佳女配角奖杯。妮可·基德曼(Nicole Kidman)因影片《时时刻刻》(《The Hours》)获得了最佳女主角奖,奖杯就放在她父母家中的壁炉台上,来串门的邻居都可以看到。詹妮弗·劳伦斯(Jennifer Lawrence)于2013年凭借《乌云背后的幸福线》(Silver Linings Playbook)获得第85届奥斯卡最佳女主角,奖杯放在她父母家中的钢琴上。 USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 2017家居行业转型升级必不可免 企业应当如何应对 New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. Sport dominated the trending searches, with Euro 2012 and Olympic tickets showing the biggest rises in interest ahead of Houston and the Duchess of Cambridge. Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 新版北京城市规划什么样? Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 杭州将为外来务工人员提供4万套临时租赁住房 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

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