Shipping Infectious Substances/Etiologic Agents

Shipping Infectious Substances/Etiologic Agents
Infectious Substances are those substances containing viable microorganisms or their toxins, which are known or suspected to cause disease in humans (see 42 CFR 72 for definition). These are also known as etiologic agents.

Note this important rule from the U.S. Department of Transportation: No person may knowingly transport or cause to be transported in interstate traffic, directly or indirectly any material, including but not limited to, diagnostic specimens and biological products which such person reasonably believes may contain any etiologic agent unless such material is packaged to withstand leakage of contents, shocks, pressure changes, and other conditions incident to ordinary handling in transportation.

Packaging requirements for PeaceHealth Laboratories Couriers (or any private or contract courier in dedicated motor vehicle):
  • A leak-proof primary receptacle(s), which is the specimen container.
  • A watertight secondary packaging.
  • An absorbent material – must be placed between the primary receptacle and the secondary packaging.
  • Specimen must be labeled with name of infectious substance.
Sections of U.S. Department of Transportation: 49 CFR Parts 171 through 179 govern the transport of these materials on the ground, and other routes along with IATA regulations for air transportation.
Additional rules apply to Select Agents. Select Agents are microorganisms (virus, bacterium, fungus or rickettsia) or toxins listed in Appendix A to CFR 72 that may cause, among other issues, serious harm to the public.
For more information see Center for Disease Rules for select agents:
  • 42 CFR 71.54, Etiologic Agents, Hosts and Vectors
  • 42 CFR 72.6, Interstate Shipment of Select Agents with additional requirements facilities
Shipping Infectious Substances/Etiologic Agents Via a Commercial Carrier.
Clients who ship directly to PeaceHealth Laboratories via commercial carrier must make an assessment of the materials being offered and fill out required documentation. A freight forwarder may assist with document preparation. Note that containers must be labeled properly or the carrier may refuse to pick up the package. The primary specimen container and all shipping material must be appropriate for the conditions of transportation, including temperature and air pressure changes.
Follow U.S. Department of Transportation 49 CFR Parts 171 through 179. If specimens are mailed, follow U.S. Postal Service: 39 CFR Part 111 and Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) CO23 Hazardous Materials. IATA packing instruction #602 applies to infectious substances/etiological substances being transported by air. Carriers will not accept or ship improperly packaged or labeled materials.