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‘We think this is a game-changer:’ New test could let patients self swab for COVID-19

Data pix.

MILWAUKEE -- A new test for COVID-19 could allow patients to swab their own noses at approved testing sites. It's a less invasive procedure than the current deep nose swab performed by clinicians.

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

More than a half-million Americans have now been tested for the coronavirus, including President Donald Trump

"We have a current process that's a little bit difficult," President Trump said. "Not very nice to do. I can tell you, because I did it."

Much like the president, many are surprised by the uncomfortable process required to collect a specimen.

Annika Taylor

"It's a swab about this big that gets shoved up your nose for about a minute. And they swirl it around and put it back in the test tube," said Milwaukee resident Annika Taylor.

"My eyes were watering, I looked like I had been crying," said Katie Holm of Burlington.

Katie Holm

A video from the New England Journal of Medicine shows just how far the nasal swab has to be inserted by a healthcare professional. To do it, professionals have to be decked out in full protective gear.

"It looked scary when they came out because they were all garbed up, they had the masks on and everything," Holm said.

That could soon change thanks to a one-week study by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group

"We think this is a game-changer," Eric Hausman, a spokesman for UnitedHealth, said.

The peer-reviewed study, which has yet to be formally published, found that a test that allows patients to swab the inside of their own nose was just as effective at identifying COVID-19 as the more invasive deep nose swab administered by healthcare professionals.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated its guidelines to allow the self-swab procedure, but that does not mean you do a COVID-19 test at home; you will still have to meet pre-screening requirements to get a test, at least for now.

"There could be future applications and other tests are rolled out," said Hausman. "For now, this is not an at-home test. This is a better process for administering the test."

Resources to keep you informed about COVID-19

CLICK HERE to view the Milwaukee County COVID-19 dashboard.

CLICK HERE to view the latest COVID-19 totals (updated daily at 2 p.m.) from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

  • If you have questions or immediate needs related to COVID-19, you can:
    • Text COVID19 to 211-211
    • Visit 211Wisconsin.org
    • Call 211. Call volumes are high, please be patient and try to use the text or online options first.

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Helpful phone numbers

  • Milwaukee Health Department: 414-286-3521
  • If you've lost a job and need help with unemployment: 414-435-7069

About COVID-19 (from the CDC)

Symptoms: Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses).

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
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