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Negative in the nose… but positive in the throat

Negative in the nose… but positive in the throat

Friday 07 January 2022

Negative in the nose… but positive in the throat

Friday 07 January 2022

A local hairdresser with confirmed covid is among of a growing number of islanders who thinks individuals should swab their throat AND nose as a precautionary measure after all of her nasal lateral flow tests came back negative, while all oral samples were positive - but the Government is not endorsing the message.

It says islanders taking part in regular home should stick to nose-only.

Instructions accompanying the home testing kits currently being issued by Government state that islanders should place their swab “about 1 inch up” in each nostril, rolling it along the inside for 15 seconds. Unlike a PCR test, tonsils are not swabbed.

However, in recent weeks, increasing numbers of islanders have also been taking to social media to call out their own testing discrepancies.

Among them was owner of Anacabello hair salon, Ana Santos Franco (36), whose own experience led her to believe it “so important” that more islanders to swab their throats as an additional safety measure, particularly if they are a direct contact.


Pictured: A sample of some of the islanders sharing their experiences of throat swabbing on social media.

Under the latest government rules, direct contacts without symptoms do not need to quarantine if they receive negative LFT results.

After finding out that she was a direct contact over the weekend, and being booked in for a PCR test on Thursday, Ana swabbed her nose three times, with each LFT returning a negative result. However, when she swabbed her throat, each test came back positive.

While waiting for her PCR, which confirmed she had covid yesterday, she went on to develop a sore throat, temperature, sensitive skin, and a painful chest.

She told Express she feared that, had she not done the throat swab before her symptoms emerged, she would have been “walking around and in close contact with clients.”

lateral flow test LFT

Pictured: Current lateral flow test instructions say that islanders should only swab their nostrils.

LFT kits issued in the UK originally suggested that individuals also swab their throats, but that recommendation was later removed as it was believed this may be a barrier to individuals deciding to regularly self-test.

Numerous scientific experts are, however, suggesting that individuals continue swabbing their throats.

UCL cell biologist Professor Jennifer Rhon, who made dual swabbing recommendation on Twitter based on her own experience, while lead scientist on the Zoe covid study Prof Tim Spector advised: “Always swab both your throat as well as your nose if you want an accurate LFT.”

Washington epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding, and UCL’s Prof Irene Petersen, have both highlighted research findings that oral swabs may be more effective at picking up omicron infections because the virus may firstly replicate in the throat before the nose.

Data from the Department from Health and Social Care reported by the Telegraph on Wednesday showed that test sensitivity falls if only the nose is swabbed. 

“For high viral loads, the test picks up 92 per cent of cases with nose and throat but only 88 per cent with nose alone. For lower viral loads, it detects just 47 per cent of cases compared with 59 per cent if both are carried out,” the report said.

Jersey’s Public Health Director Professor Peter Bradley said that it was the right approach for an individual to isolate if they were confused about their LFT results, but told Express that he would not endorse throat swabbing as part of the regular home testing programme.

director of public health Peter Bradley

Pictured: Jersey's Public Health Director said the Government's advice was to stick to nose-only swabbing.

“We have to bear in mind that… we’re asking people to test regularly, we are advising them to do so in the nose [because it] is more acceptable and will encourage people to make it into a regular habit,” he said.

Some islanders have also pointed out on social media that the swabs contained in Jersey's kits have a snap point, which may be a choking hazard.

While Prof Bradley acknowledged there was “always a little bit of margin for error” in LFTs, Prof Bradley said he was still confident that nasal swabbing was a good way of checking for covid.

“At the moment, the omicron variant replicates really well in the nose so it will give you a very good indication, however it’s not 100% reliable which is why we advise that people take several LFTs. 

“…There’ll always be a little bit of margin for error in these LFTs unfortunately, but the reason why we use them is that they’re so convenient, people get the test results that they want so quickly and, as I say, we advise nasal testing because people will generally find that more acceptable to them than the throat swabbing.”

If islanders start showing symptoms and are in any doubt about their covid status, however, he said it was important that they book a PCR test.

Symptoms that should trigger a PCR test include:

  • High temperature or fever

  • New continuous cough

  • Loss of, or change to, sense of smell or taste

  • And the emergence of any of the following with no obvious or existing reason:

    • fatigue;

    • headache;

    • sore throat;

    • diarrhoea;

    • muscle ache.

CLICK HERE for further information about covid symptoms and HERE to book a PCR test.

Pictured top: Ana Santos Franco's negative nasal LFT (left) and throat test (right).

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