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Transportation of infectious substances

This part of the site provides an overview of the transport requirements for materials containing, or contaminated with, blood-borne viruses.

In the context of this guidance, the most likely materials presenting a risk of infection from blood-borne viruses, which will be subject to transport include:

Legislation

Biological agents, or materials that contain or may contain them, are allocated to UN Division 6.2 - infectious substances. Division 6.2 includes biological products, cultures, specimens, genetically modified microorganisms (GMMs), genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and medical/clinical waste.

There are 4 steps involved in the safe transport of infectious material. These are:

Classification

The transportation of infectious substances is divided into the following categories:

Samples of materials such as blood, tissue, excreta, secreta, etc collected from humans or animals are considered, as a minimum, category B infectious substances. Clinical or medical waste that contains category B infectious substances (with the exception of cultures), or that only has a low probability of containing infectious substances, is assigned to UN 3291.

Packaging

Transport of infectious substances requires a basic triple packaging system. It consists of three layers as follows:

Each completed package is normally required to be marked, labelled and accompanied with appropriate shipping documents (as applicable). Specific details on the packaging requirements and specifications are available from the Department for Transport.

Labelling

Packages containing infectious substances should be marked with:

Transport

In general, category B samples that are sent using UN 3373 can normally be sent via the postal service. However, as a proportion of the post in the UK will travel by air at some point in its journey, the packaging will need to comply with the ICAO standards. Similarly, some courier companies will accept only category B infectious samples, hence it may be necessary to use a different company for category A infectious samples. You should always discuss your transport requirements with your chosen carrier.

Further information

The Department for Transport sets out the legal requirements and provides specific detailed guidance on the classification, packaging, labelling and transport of infectious substances, in their publication Transport of Infectious Substances.

Updated 2015-06-29