Transporting Samples to the Labs: A Major Challenge

Shipping Materials

Specimen delivery cooler, including icepack, specimen jar, sample transport form, biohazard bag and thermal temperature gun used by IMC in Guinea for training. Courtesy of International Medical Corps (IMC)

Lab samples arrived by many different methods, including motorbikes, ambulances couriers, and in the case of Sierra Leone, helicopters. Too often in the early days of the epidemic, the lack of transportation made it difficult to get the samples to labs quickly.  Sometimes it wasn’t just about how quickly the samples reached the lab, but the state they were in when they got there—sometimes packed in coffee pots, plastic bags and glass jars. 

In Bo, CDC staff procured Airsafe transport containers, and developed an accompanying infographic to provide instructions on the proper use of the containers for users with varying levels of English literacy. These transport kits were distributed to Ebola Treatment Units and communities where suspect patients may be isolated in holding centers. This new, safer method of transport led to an agreement with the United Nations to transport these now safely-encased specimens on helicopter flights in Sierra Leone.                

CDC also worked to ensure that samples were accompanied by appropriate case investigation forms—critical to tracking samples and ensuring that results were reported properly.

The infographic below explains how to safely ship Ebola specimens.

Specimen Collection Kit Infographic

Produced by CDC’s Division of Creative Services

Jernigan, Daniel

Dr. Daniel Jernigan

Dr. Daniel B. Jernigan, an Ebola response team lead in Sierra Leone, talks about systems for picking up specimens and how getting specimens to labs fits into the overall response. (Transcript)