• The United States is now facing a shortage of swabs to test for the new coronavirus, several news agencies reported.
  • Swabs to test for the new coronavirus have to be a specific size and be made of certain materials so they can properly test for the virus. 
  • Experts and healthcare workers have highlighted a number of obstacles in dealing with the growing coronavirus outbreak in the US. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories

The United States has faced many obstacles in addressing the rapidly expanding coronavirus outbreak, including flawed testing kits and shortages of protective equipment for healthcare workers. 

Now, a shortage of swabs used for testing could mean hospitals may not even be able to test patients for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Some hospitals have already stopped using a second swab to test for the flu to hold on to the supply the have, The New York Times reported. 

According to The Times, earlier this week the University of California San Francisco health system only had five days worth of nasopharyngeal swabs, which are used to get samples from patients nasal passages for testing. They were able to get an additional two days’ worth of supplies on Wednesday.

Josh Adler, the chief clinical officer at UCSF Health, told The Times that the hospital has never had to deal with keeping track of their swab supplies because it’s never run out before. 

The swabs are made by an Italian company that manufactures them in northern Italy, which is also the epicenter of the outbreak in Italy. The company Copan said they’re increasing manufacturing of the swabs. 

Additionally, Adler explained to The Times, the swabs had to be made of the right material so the virus can be detected properly. 

“You can’t go to your local store and get Q-tips,” he told The Times. 

These swabs have to be thin enough to reach the upper part of the throat behind the nose and must be made from synthetic fiber. They can’t have a wooden shaft or have calcium alginate, which is used in swab tips for wound care and can kill the virus, NPR reported. 

These swabs are recommended for coronavirus testing by the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Experts and healthcare workers are worried that the outbreak could strain the healthcare system, Business Insider previously reported. Hospitals already lack ICU beds, ventilators, and respirators to treat patients. Healthcare workers are short on gowns and mask needed to protect themselves when treating patients.  Some doctors have even start reusing their face masks.

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