Information About Ebola Specimens, Testing, and Transport

Created by CDC microbiologist Frederick A. Murphy, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion.
Created by CDC microbiologist Frederick A. Murphy, this colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion.

Based on extensive consultation with experts in every area of our laboratory practice, and an exhaustive review of our processes and procedures, Mayo Medical Laboratories will NOT ACCEPT specimens from patients suspected of having Ebola Virus Disease.

We did not make this decision lightly. The decision was reached as part of a Mayo Clinic-wide effort to ensure we, as an institution, are ready to effectively care for patients suspected of Ebola. In that light, we would like to take this opportunity to clearly explain the three important reasons for our decision:

1. Testing should occur locally for Ebola patients; esoteric testing is not part of the CDC’s protocol.

Ebola is an infection with significant public health implications. Patients diagnosed with Ebola are very sick, and their treatment requires rapid performance of a select number of routine laboratory tests. Examples of similar testing include treatment of diseases and infections such as malaria, influenza, and bacterial sepsis (i.e., blood culture). In order to ensure timely results, testing for Ebola patients should occur locally and should not be submitted to a reference laboratory. In most instances, testing can be performed at the local laboratory in a safe manner, following the recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for laboratory workers. Esoteric testing that is part of the Mayo Medical Laboratories test menu would not typically be considered part of the recommended care for Ebola patients.

2. Transportation of possible Ebola specimens puts too many individuals at risk.

Transport of potentially infected specimens increases the risk of exposure to multiple parties, including local health care individuals responsible for packaging specimens and air and ground transportation personnel. Packaging and shipping should be performed under the direction of the CDC. According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (42 CFR part 73), because these specimens are considered Tier 1 select agents, Mayo Medical Laboratories cannot knowingly receive the specimens without first contacting the CDC.

3. Ensuring the safety of our employees is paramount.

Mayo Medical Laboratories cannot adequately contain the testing environment or large open-test systems for Ebola specimens in a way that assures the safety of all employees. Many of the tests that we offer are only available on platforms that are not suitable for testing specimens that may contain the Ebola virus.


Questions

If you have any questions related to laboratory testing for a suspected Ebola case, it is critical that you contact your state health department before contacting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 


Resources

CDC Resources

Mayo Clinic Resources

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.