Public Health works around swab problem

(Image courtesy Spc. Miguel Pena, U.S. Army Reserve)

 Health officials forced to use throat swabs due to shortage

Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

A shortage of nasal swabs has prompted the province to temporarily send Public Health Units throat swabs, but Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health said it is no worry.

“Nothing has gone wrong. There was just a huge swab shortage so we received swabs larger than the size necessary for nasopharyngeal (nasal) swabs,” Dr. David Colby said.

The nasopharynx is the upper part of the throat behind the nose. Throat swabs test the oropharynx, the part of the throat that is at the back of the mouth.

To test the nasal area, tinier swabs are needed. Colby did say he was surprised to learn the supply line contained the larger swabs, but immediately issued a memorandum for health staff to use them on the throat.

“The supply chain will be cleaned up and we’ll return to nasal swabs very soon,” he said.

Colby said the nasal swabs are the best for patients as it is less invasive and can grab more specimens than from the oropharynx.

Throat tests are not 100 per cent “sensitive,” so tests will be redone on patients who came back with negative results yet are still showing symptoms.

Colby said provincial health authorities are still counting results from the throat swabs in their data.

Earlier in the week Premiere Doug Ford lashed out at local health officers in Ontario, blaming them for lagging COVID-19 testing numbers that are hindering the province’s goals for testing.

“I’m calling them out right now. You’ve got to pick up the pace,” he said. “We’re going to have to get on the phone with them and find out what excuse they’re going to give us (for) why they’re not testing.”

Ontario chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said there were many factors to the low numbers, such as a supply shortage.

As far as Chatham-Kent’s Public Health Unit goes, “we’re not meeting the provincial quota, we’re exceeding the provincial quota,” said Colby.

As of Friday afternoon 741 of 806 residents in long-term care and 905 of 1,129 staff had been tested. Two staff and 31 residents exercised their right of refusal for testing.

The provincial deadline to complete the testing in long-term care homes is May 15.

“ We should be finished that long before the deadline. And so we’re well ahead of the game,” Colby said.

To date, there have been no cases linked to long-term care homes in Chatham-Kent.




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