CHICAGO (CBS) — Tens of thousands have gotten tested in Chicago for COVID-19.
Many said the nasal swab is painful and invasive. But now there’s a painless way to find out if you’re infected. It raises the question of whether accuracy is being sacrificed for comfort.
CBS 2’s Steven Graves went to find out.
At a testing site in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, it’s easy. No swabs will go inside your nose. It’s a quick swab of the mouth and you’re done.
The city of Chicago sends you an instructional video after registering online. It outlines how you shouldn’t eat or drink 20 minutes before the test. You swab on the tongue, gums and cheeks.
It’s a far departure from the invasive swab up your nasal cavity. But which one is more accurate?
“The standard right now is a deep nasopharyngeal swab. That’s the one anatomic site that’s been validated,” said Doctor Nishant Agrawal, Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
He said that uncomfortable test with the nasal swab is the best option. CBS 2 asked Chicago’s Department of Public Health why they use an alternate one, but haven’t heard back.
“I’m assuming it’s because it’s self-administration. And you can get some type of signal from it. But I don’t think we can say this is the equivalent right now,” said Argrawal.
Right now, you’ll come across four different types of tests.
“Nasopharynx is the back of the nose. Nasal cavity is in the nose, which can be the front part. Oral cavity is the mouth. Oralpharynx is the back of the throat,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the back of the throat and nasal cavity tests, which are mainly given by health professionals.
The caution with self-administered ones is the possibility of a false negative. The city outlines that warning in a pamphlet officials hand out at testing sites.
Doctor Agrawal and his team are also looking at getting results strictly using saliva or spit. No swab involved. And initial findings are promising.
The doctor said testing is evolving, but right now, some form of getting tested is better than nothing.
Click here for a list of testing sites and the different kinds of COVID-19 tests available.