New coronavirus nasal swab tests are easier on patients and safer for providers

A patient self-administers the new nares swab sample collection method at the Fairbanks...
A patient self-administers the new nares swab sample collection method at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital drive-through testing center. (Foundation Health Partners) (KTVF)
Published: May. 28, 2020 at 7:26 PM AKDT
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Foundation Health Partners (FHP), the group which manages Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, has introduced a new COVID-19 sample collection method called a nares swab.

Unlike the former nasopharyngeal collection method, which required healthcare providers to swab the back of the throat via the nostrils, a nares test only requires swabbing of the nostrils themselves.

This means that Fairbanks residents who are referred for COVID-19 testing may now find the experience much easier than those who have previously been tested.

“It’s really uncomfortable for patients and you’re right in their face while you’re doing it,” says Joan Sonnenburg, director of Operations with FHP. “And as you’re in their face doing it they cough, and they can expel spit onto you.”

For the new tests, however, this is not the case. Because nares swabs only go into the nostrils, healthcare providers utilize fewer pieces of valuable PPE in order to administer them.

"The great thing is, in the long run actually kind of is streamlining the process, and protects our staff, in addition to making it more comfortable for the patients," says Casandra Khesed, Director of Laboratory Services with FHP.

Sonnonberg describes the sample collection method patients will experience.

"So, the nurse gives instructions to the patients on how to do it, and she hands the patient the swab, instead of the nurse doing it, the nurse then hands it to the patient. And the patient takes the swab and puts it into their nares and scrapes basically the inside of their nose for 15 seconds. So, we count for them ' one Mississippi, two Mississippi' then they take it out and they put it in their other nares for 15 seconds. And then they hand it back and we put it into the medium and test it," she says.

According to FHP, tests done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have showed that this collection method is reliable when collecting COVID-19 samples.

She says that some patients had been hesitant about getting tested due to fears about the previous collection method, which had been more painful.

FHP also anticipates a new testing analyzer in June, which will enable them to perform more tests at a faster rate in-house, reducing the burden on the state virology labs.

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