The CDC has released interim guidance for laboratorians and other health care workers regarding the handling of specimens taken from patients who have suspected Ebola virus infections.
It emphasized that anyone collecting or handling such specimens are to follow standards compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration bloodborne pathogens standards, including wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and implementing other safeguards.
For specimen collection and laboratory testing, PPE recommendations include full face shield or goggles, masks to cover all of the nose and mouth, gloves and fluid-resistant or impermeable gowns. For laboratory testing, the recommendations also include use of a certified class II biosafety cabinet or plexiglass splash guard.
Specimens should be obtained when a symptomatic patient reports to the health care facility and is suspected to have been exposed to Ebola virus. However, if the symptom onset is less than 3 days, an additional specimen is required. The preferred specimen is a minimum volume of 4 mL whole blood, preserved with EDTA, clot activator, sodium polyanethol sulfonate or citrate. Specimens can be submitted in plastic collection tubes only.
To transport specimens within a hospital or facility, they should be placed in a durable, leak-proof secondary container. Specimens sent to the CDC for testing should be packaged using the basic triple packaging system. The CDC must be notified prior to sending, as they will not accept specimens without consultation.
For more information on handling specimens from patients with suspected Ebola virus, click here.