A seven-year-old boy accidentally bit off the swab and swallowed its tip when undergoing a COVID-19 nucleic acid test (NAT) at the Taipa Ferry Terminal testing station in Pac On on Tuesday morning, after which he was taken to hospital for a medical examination and treatment, and was discharged in the afternoon, the government’s Novel Coronavirus Response and Coordination Centre said in a statement Tuesday night.
The statement also said that biting the swab rod off is one of the most common accidents that occur when children are having their sample collected for a COVID-19 test via oropharyngeal swabs. The statement also said that the Health Bureau (SSM) will require all COVID-19 testing institutions in the city to collect samples from those undergoing their nucleic acid tests only via nasopharyngeal swabs – i.e. to no longer take oropharyngeal swabs. The statement did not say when the new requirement will take effect.
The Health Bureau has commissioned a third-party testing institution – Kuok Kim (Macau) Hygiene Examination Company Limited – to carry out COVID-19 testing under its NAT scheme, which was launched on 7 May.
According to the statement, a family member of the boy took him to the Pac On testing station for a nucleic acid test on Tuesday morning. When a staff member collected a sample from the boy with an oropharyngeal swab, he resisted and “made a fuss” and ended up accidentally biting off the swab and swallowing the three-centimetre-long tip.
The boy was taken by ambulance to the paediatric emergency department of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre for medical examination and treatment. The boy, who was in a stable condition, told the doctors that he had a slight sore throat, the statement said.
During the medical examination, no foreign object was found in the boy’s epiglottis, and the result of his chest radiography was normal. The hospital also performed a gastroscopy but no foreign object was found, and no abnormalities were detected, the statement said.
According to the statement, the boy was temporarily hospitalised for observation, after which he started eating without any discomfort in the afternoon. Therefore he was discharged, and the hospital will arrange for him to undergo a follow-up check-up in the near future.
The statement pointed out that the Health Bureau has been collecting samples for those undergoing their nucleic acid tests via nasopharyngeal swabs, adding that sampling via nasopharyngeal swabs has advantages over sampling via oropharyngeal swabs.
The statement said that a nasopharyngeal swab can remain in the pharynx for a longer period of time to obtain more sufficient samples than an oropharyngeal swab, adding that therefore a person who has been infected with the novel coronavirus disease is more likely to test positive for COVID-19 if he or she has had his or her sample collected via a nasopharyngeal swab rather than via an oropharyngeal swab – i.e. increased effectiveness will lead to a higher rate of positive results.
Boy’s father vows ‘criminal complaint’
Meanwhile, local Chinese-language newspaper Macao Daily News reported on Tuesday that the boy’s father, surnamed Kuok, called the newspaper complaining about the incident. Kuok said that as it was a medical incident so that he has reported the case to the police and decided to file a “criminal complaint” against the testing institution.
According to the Macao Daily News report, staff members at the Pac On testing station were twice unsuccessful in collecting samples from the boy, who was accompanied by his mother. After their third attempt, the staff members discovered that the tip of the swab had disappeared.
According to the report, Kuok quoted his wife as saying that the staff members of the testing institution were rude and unfriendly to their son during the sampling process. Kuok said that he would ask the health authorities to provide him with the staff members’ information so as to confirm whether they hold the relevant professional qualifications.
Meanwhile, Lei Wai Seng, a clinical director of the public Conde de São Januário Hospital Centre, told reporters when inspecting the new testing station for the government’s NAT scheme at the Macau Forum complex in Zape that the new station will now accept all Macao residents for a COVID-19 test, provided places are still available, after considering that currently there is no high demand by senior citizens and children for a COVID-19 test.
According to the original plan, only senior citizens aged at least 65, minors aged below 18, people with disabilities, and those suffering from “special diseases” (namely infectious diseases, drug addiction, tumours and psychiatric diseases) could choose to undergo their nucleic acid tests at the Macau Forum testing station, which came into operation on Tuesday, in addition to undergoing the tests at the programme’s main testing station in Pac On as before.
(The Macau Post Daily/Macau News)
PHOTO © The Macau Post Daily/Maria Cheang Ut Meng