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CDC provides guidance for COVID-19 samples

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently provided guidelines for health care providers who wish to have samples tested for the new coronavirus. The agency states all labs should preform risk assessments to identify and mitigate any potential risks and encourages caution when handling specimens.

The agency’s guidelines focus on two main areas: the type of specimen and proper shipping technique.

Guideline #1: Type of specimen

The agency recommends two types of specimens:

  • Upper respiratory tract. The CDC recommends professionals take nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab specimens with synthetic fiver swabs that have a plastic shaft. Once the sample is present, the professional should place the swab into a sterile tube with 2-3 ml of viral transport media.
  • Lower respiratory tract. The bronchoalveolar lavage or tracheal aspirate samples should include 2-3 mL of sample in a sterile, leak-proof, screw-cap sputum collection cup. A sterile dry container can also suffice. The agency recommends professionals collect sputum samples after the patient rinses their mouth with water and then produces a deep cough with sputum, placing the sputum into the same type of collection cup or dry container.

Guideline #2: Proper shipping technique

The latest guidance from the agency encourages those who are looking to get samples tested to store specimens at 2-8 degrees Celsius and overnight the specimen to the CDC. The CDC requires the package label include the patient’s ID number, unique specimen ID such as the laboratory requisition number, specimen type such as serum and collection date. The agency also requests the sample be accompanied with a CDC Form 50.34.

Additional information on shipment is available here.

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