Clinical Virology Laboratory -
Specimen Collection Guidelines

  • Collect specimens as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. The chance of patient recovery is best during the first 3 days after onset and is greatly reduced beyond 5 days with many viruses. Autopsy samples need to be collected as soon as possible after death before tissues start decomposing.

  • Refer to the specimen collection guide table for viral culture. In general, place swabs into a tube containing a small volume of VTM, and scrapings and small pieces of tissue into a tube containing a small volume of VTM or saline. Place fluid and bulk specimens (e.g., tissue) into a sterile leakproof container; add a volume of VTM sufficient to prevent drying of tissue.

  • Collect specimens as aseptically as possible to avoid introduction of contaminating organisms that can take over the culture later and make accurate diagnosis difficult.

  • Place each specimen into a separate container labeled with the patient's name and identification number, the collection site, the date of collection, and the time of the collection.

  • Obtain a complete patient history, including the date of onset of symptoms, clinical findings, recent exposure history, animal or arthropod contacts or bites, recent travel to areas of endemic infections, and recent vaccines.