10.2.4 Packaging And Dispatching Samples

Packaging and dispatch of samples must be done in such a way to prevent a number of risks. The main risks include leakage of formalin or biological fluids, deterioration of samples from heat or cold, spreading disease including zoonoses, the samples becoming lost or discarded and non compliance with customs and transport regulations or chain of custody requirements.

Note that there are a number of packaging and sample submission practices that were common place once but which now are no longer acceptable. These include:

  • Syringes capped with needles as containers to submit body fluids
  • Free ice as coolant
  • Paper as absorbent material
  • Submitting needles, scalpel blades and other sharp items with samples
  • Rectal palpation sleeves used as sample bags for tissues or faeces
  • Glass bottles as sample containers
  • Ears for diagnosis of anthrax
  • Specimen submission forms smeared with faeces or blood

Samples collected at sea can only be returned to Australia for subsequent diagnostic testing by storing them on the ship for unloading when the vessel returns to an Australian port. It may be months before the ship returns to Australia with other voyages to other countries occurring before returning to Australia. Therefore, samples collected at sea need to be especially well packaged and labeled with the AQIS Accredited Veterinarian's name and the instructions "DO NOT DISCARD - SAMPLES TO BE REMOVED IN AUSTRALIA" in large, clear, bold writing.