ISSN 2398-2942      

Transportation of diagnostic specimen

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Introduction

  • International guidelines for the transport of infectious substances have been issued by theUnited Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goodsand endorsed by theWorld Health Organization, theUniversal Postal Union, theInternational Civil Aviation Organizationand theInternational Air Transport Association.
  • These guidelines serve to protect the health of postal, airline and other personnel involved in the transport of infectious substances, through the refusal to carry certain infectious material and the insistence on the use of approved packaging for other material.
  • To date there have been no recorded cases of illness resulting from the release of specimens during transport.
DefinitionsInfectious substances
In summary, infectious substances are those which are known or suspected to contain pathogens in risk groups 2 or 3.
  • Definition: a substance containing a viable micro-organism (bacterium, virus, rickettsia, parasite, fungus, prion) that is known or suspected to cause disease in humans or animals.
  • For packaging and transport regulations, infectious substances include:
    • cultures containing (or suspected of containing) an agent which may cause infection.
    • Human or animal samples that contain such an agent in sufficient quantity to cause infection if exposure occurs during transportation.
    • Sample(s) from a patient with serious disease of unknown cause.
    • Other specimens not included above and designated infectious by a qualified person.

Diagnostic specimens
In summary, diagnostic specimens are those which are thought unlikely to contain any pathogens in risk groups 2 or 3, or those being sent for routine screening only.

  • Definition: any human or animal material including (but not limited to) excreta, blood and its components, tissue and tissue fluids collected for the purposes of diagnosis, but excluding live infected animals.
  • Diagnostic specimens from medical or veterinary practice and research are considered to have negligible risk to public health because:
    • They contain limited amount of infectious agents.
    • Very few agents would result in infection if released during transport.
      If release of the specimen during transport could result in infection, the specimen must be packaged, labelled and transported as an infectious substance.
      Diagnostic specimens obtained during investigation of an outbreak of serious disease of unknown cause must be treated as infectious substances.

Packaging and labelling requirements

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Infectious substances - labeling

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Refrigerants

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Local surface transport

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Transport planning

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Health and Safety Executive (1998) The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1994. Approved list of Biological Agents. 3rd edn. (Further information at http://www.open.gov.uk/hse/hthdir/agents)
  • World Health Organization (1997) Guidelines for the safe transport of infectious substances and diagnostic specimens. (Full document can be downloaded from http://www.who.int/emc)
  • World Health Organization (1993) Emergency safety measures in transport-associated accidents. In: Laboratory Biosafety Manual. 2nd edn. pp 52-54.

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