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What’s the difference between the throat swab or nasal swab COVID-19 test?

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As COVID-19 testing continues, we are seeing a variety of ways of getting results.

We find out the difference between the nasal swab and the throat swab and why there’s controversy over the two types.

Initially, when COVID-19 hit the United States, nasopharyngeal or a nasal swab was the only way to test, but as we are seeing across the state, oropharyngeal or a throat swab has become the primary source of testing in North Dakota.

“You could potentially submit an oral swab, throat swab for the test. But the laboratory can not categorically tell you, you can hang your hat on the result,” shared Dr. Noe Matteo, the infectious disease doctor from Sanford Health.

Dr. Matteo questions the accuracy of those throat swabs.

“The test that are done are very sensitive, but what they have been validated for, what they’re certified to be able to do reliably is a nasal swab. The nasopharyngeal swab,” shared Dr. Matteo.

To date, the State of North Dakota has conducted over 200,000 tests through mass testing events, and other private and public medical settings.

The State Health Department doesn’t agree with Dr. Matteo’s assessment.

The State says both forms of testing work the same way and are both accurate.

“The idea is that our laboratory goes through a process to validate all of those specimens, to make sure that all of them are meeting the specifications that they need to meet in order to be run and be valid,” shared Kirby Kruger, the Director of Infectious Disease for North Dakota Department of Health.

Both the nasal and throat swabs collect specimens from the back of the throat the process is just different.

Kruger says the decision to make mouth swabs the primary way of testing in North Dakota is both convenient for testers and those being tested.

“It’s easier to collect a good specimen with them because you can get back to the throat and you know you’re back where you need to be with an oropharyngeal swab,” shared Kruger.

The CDC recommends collecting nasal swabs but says throat swabs are also acceptable.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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