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COVID-19 Nasal Swab Test Does Not Cause Risk of Infection


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To help control the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended getting a COVID-19 test for people who show symptoms of the disease, have come into contact with someone known to have the disease, or are in vulnerable groups. 

The most common form of testing for the novel coronavirus involves the use of a nasopharyngeal, or nasal, swab. The swab reaches deep into the back of a person’s nose and mouth to collect cells and fluids from the upper respiratory system, which can then be checked with diagnostic tests for the presence of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

The testing procedure involves inserting a 6-inch-long swab into the cavity between the nose and mouth for 15 seconds and rotating it several times. The swabbing is repeated on the other side. The swab is then inserted into a container and sent to a lab for testing.

Dr. Shawn Nasseri, an ear, nose and throat surgeon based in Beverly Hills who has conducted many COVID-19 swab tests, told us in an email that the nasal swab “follows the floor of the nose and goes to where the nose meets the throat, or naso-pharynx.”

Asked if the swab test is safe, Nasseri said, “Absolutely. The biggest risk is discomfort. The rare person — 1 in thousands — passes out from being super sensitive or gets a mild nosebleed. It’s estimated that close to 40 million or more swabs have been performed safely in the U.S. alone.”

But in recent weeks, viral posts on Facebook falsely claim that the nasal swab test can cause serious health issues. One post says, “The stick deep into the nose causes damage to the hamato-encephalic barrier and damages endocrine glands. This test creates an entrance to the brain for every infection.”

The hamato-encephalic barrier, also known as the “blood-brain barrier,” protects the brain from toxins that could be present in the blood.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of epidemiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told us in an email that the Facebook claim “is not true.”

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Nasseri said that “it is incredibly implausible, if not impossible, to cross the skull base and blood-brain barrier with a swab unless someone uses a rigid metal instrument and is pointing the metal object 90 degrees in the wrong direction.”

Dr. Morgan Katz, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, told the Associated Press that the Facebook posts misunderstand what’s happening when the swab test is performed.

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Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 瓷砖经销商频跳槽 互利才能保持长久关系 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “You might think Hawaiian has it relatively easy, since its flights rarely have to contend with the kind of challenging weather conditions found on the mainland. Hawaiian perennially rates high in on-time performance rankings, topping the most recent DOT list i n September. It recently announced it will branch well beyond its island home with non-stop service to Beijing. Business Insider. 15 Apr 2020. 

Dr. Shawn Nasseri.  Ear, nose and throat surgeon. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 3 Aug 2020.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado. Professor of epidemiology, Stanford University School of Medicine. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 3 Aug 2020.

Fauzia, Miriam. “如果你是一个腼腆的人,那么一开始坐在前排可能会让你有点不自在。但是,我向你保证,这是接受老师传授的内容的最好的办法之一。你也可以听得更清楚。不用伸长脖子,你就可以看到黑板上所有的内容。 USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 3月百城住宅均价近九成同比下跌 16城跌幅超10% New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. 考夫曼和同事加雷思?哈里斯(Gareth Harris)发现,居住在那些人种快速多样化地域的英国白人更倾向于投给右翼的英国国家党(British National Party)。宾夕法尼亚大学政治学教授丹尼尔?霍普金斯(Daniel Hopkins)在美国发现了相似的民族变化导致反移民政策的规律。 Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 多地租房市场降温 这个城市房租跌得最猛 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 家居建材企业“斗地主” 品牌商谋自建渠道 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. “The Blood-Brain Barrier.” Accessed Aug. 4, 2020.