Patient Specimen Description

Summary: If you are shipping a human or animal patient specimen, please read the following description.

Background: UCSC conforms to strict government regulations when transporting hazardous materials. Shipments must arrive at their destination in good condition and present no hazard during shipment. Prior to shipping any hazardous material, please contact EH&S at (831) 459-2553.

Patient specimens resulting from research are considered a negligible threat to the public health. They are, however, subject to the hazardous material transport regulations.

Definition: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) define a patient specimen as a human or animal material collected directly from humans or animals and transported for research, diagnosis, investigational activities, or disease treatment or prevention. Patient specimens include, but are not limited to, excreta, secreta, blood, blood components, tissue, and specimens in transport media.

Patient specimens considered Infectious Substances:

  • The specimen is obtained from a patient with suspected infection
  • Exposure to the specimen could result in an infection
  • The specimen is collected during an investigation of an outbreak of a serious disease of unknown cause

If the specimen meets any of these criteria, it must be shipped as an Infectious Substance according to the DOT Hazardous Material Transportation and IATA Dangerous Goods regulations.
Note: Live infected animals are forbidden from air transport.

Patient specimens NOT considered Infectious Substances:

  • Dried blood spots   
  • Fecal occult blood screening tests   
  • Any specimen for which there is minimal likelihood that pathogens are present

If the specimen meets any of these criteria, it does NOT have to be shipped as an Infectious Substance according to the DOT and IATA regulations. However, these specimens must be packaged and labeled as follows:

    •     The packaging must consist of:       
      • A leak-proof primary receptacle       
      • A leak-proof secondary packaging       
      • An outer packaging of adequate strength, with one surface at least 100 mm x 100 mm   
    • For liquids, absorbent material in sufficient quantity to absorb the entire contents must be placed between the primary receptacle and the secondary packaging.   
    • When multiple fragile primary receptacles are placed in a single secondary packaging, they must be either individually wrapped or separated to prevent contact between them.   
    • The outer packaging must be marked with the words "Exempt human specimen" or "Exempt animal specimen."

If you are unsure about the regulations concerning shipping a patient specimen, EH&S will research your item and advise you. Contact EHS, (831) 459-2553.

To read the regulations concerning the transport of a patient specimen, see:

Notice: The information presented on this page and elsewhere on this site is a summary of UCSC policies and national and international regulations. In case of a conflict in interpretation, the actual policies and regulations apply.