Packing and Shipping

Guidelines for Packaging Specimens

The goals of packaging are to protect the specimens from temperature extremes (freezing and heating) and to protect persons who may come into contact with the package from exposure to infectious agents. For this reason, it is extremely important to prevent leakage of specimens. Neither commercial carriers nor the U.S. Postal Service will deliver containers that leak. Leak-proof specimen containers, abundant ice packs with chilled fresh specimens, and an insulated leak-proof transport container lined with a plastic bag are required.

Check with your local post office or commercial carrier for current requirements of the Department of Transportation for shipping biological diagnostic materials. These include specifications for approved package liners and exterior labels.

  1. Label all samples with the owner's name in waterproof marker. Please do not use stick-on labels as they often come off. Be sure the contents of the box, as well as the outside of the box, are identified.
  2. If multiple cases are submitted in one box, package each case separately to ensure that all samples are assigned to the proper case. This is especially important if the package includes multiple serology submissions.
  3. Place tubes in serum shipping boxes (i.e., brucellosis boxes) or similar boxes with dividers to separate tubes from one another. Do NOT package loose blood tubes in crumpled paper or styrofoam bits.
  4. Enclose sufficient ice packs to preserve the quality of fresh tissues. This should be at least a 2:1 ratio of ice to tissues. If available, insulated styrofoam-lined containers should be used.
  5. Plastic leak-proof jars can be used for formalin-fixed tissues. Whirl-Pak® bags are excellent for holding fresh tissues. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold the end over several times before bending over the tabs. Double-bagging tissues improves the biosecurity of the specimen.
  6. If inside packages have the potential to leak, line the box with sealed plastic bags to prevent leakage. Pack with absorbent materials to soak up spills should they occur. All specimens should be packed in a manner to avoid leakage or breakage, and to withstand the trauma of mailing. Shipping agencies may choose not to deliver leaking packages because of new Department of Transportation regulations on shipment of potentially biohazardous materials. In addition, a special permit may be required for interstate transportation of certain veterinary viruses within the United States. Practitioners are referred to published federal guidelines and regulations for details pertaining to packaging, labeling, and interstate shipping of infectious agents (Title 42 CFR Part 72; Title 49 CRF Part 173.386-388).

Delivery of Specimens

Choose a method of transportation that will ensure timely delivery to the laboratory. We receive U.S. Mail and UPS deliveries Monday through Saturday. Other commercial carriers deliver as needed. Upon request, shipping cartons (non-avian) will be returned at the submitter's expense.

To be sure that samples receive prompt and proper care, schedule their arrival during standard business hours. Always consider the potential impact of holidays and weekends on shipping schedules before sending packages by commercial carriers. Personal delivery by the owner is often appropriate. Download a map and directions to the VDL for your convenience.