Washington state recalls 12,000 coronavirus tests over ‘potential contamination,’ officials say

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Washington state has recalled some 12,000 coronavirus testing kits over a “quality control” issue, state health officials said over the weekend.

The Washington State Department of Health in a news release on Sunday said some 12,000 tests were called back after officials with the University of Washington School of Medicine notified them about possible quality control problems on Friday. The tests had already been dispersed across the state, namely to “local health jurisdictions, tribal nations and state agency partners,” as per the news release.

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The recall was sparked after officials found that the viral transport media (VTM), or the “fluid that preserves a specimen during transport, such as one collected via nasal swab from a person being tested for COVID-19,” were an “unusual color."

This ultimately “prompted UW Medicine to reach out to DOH to work together to investigate potential contamination,” health officials said, though noting they don’t believe patients are at risk because “the VTM does not come in contact with patients during a COVID-19 test.”

Though preliminary testing showed the results of the coronavirus test themselves were not affected by the discoloration of the VTM fluid, the Department of Health chose to issue the recall of both the VTM fluid and the nasal swab kits “out of an abundance of caution.”

The Department of Health said it expects a “large shipment” of new VTM fluid and nasal swabs this week, and will distribute them to jurisdictions affected by the recall.

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“Though the quality control issue has only been observed in a small number of tubes of viral transport media, we adhere to the highest quality standards for COVID-19 testing in Washington state,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman, in a statement. “We are working with our partners to have them discard the product and will work to replace them as quickly as we can.”

The news comes as the U.S. is still grappling to meet demands for coronavirus testing kits, with the shortage likely being the result of rapidly increasing demand met with a weak national supply chain and disruptive federal regulations, according to a Fox Business report.

Fox Business's Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.