Packaging and Transport of Rabies Specimens


Shipping Containers

Contact the WSLH Clinical Orders Department (800-862-1088) to order a standard rabies shipping container. WSLH rabies shipping containers are provided at no cost to Wisconsin facilities. Containers are usually received within two working days after the order is placed.


Packaging Specimens


It is the submitter’s responsibility to ensure that specimens are appropriately packaged to prevent leakage and to maintain refrigerator temperatures during transit. Leaking or inappropriately packaged specimens may result in exposure of anyone who handles the package; please ensure the safety of handlers by packaging rabies specimens responsibly.

If you use your own packaging, duplicate the WSLH shipper containment layers as follows:

  • Seal the animal specimen in thick plastic bags (e.g., multiple layers of heavy garbage bags or individually sealed ziplock bags).
  • Place the bag in a seamless styrofoam container to insulate the specimen during shipment and provide another barrier to leakage.
  • Include a sufficient number of “cool packs” with the specimen to keep it cool during transport.
    • Do not use ice cubes as coolant since they invariably leak during transit.
    • Do not use dry ice or freeze the specimen prior to shipment, thawing a frozen specimen will delay testing.
  • Place the styrofoam container inside another thick garbage bag as a final barrier to leakage.
  • Place the bagged styrofoam container inside a heavy cardboard box (200 psi burst strength) to protect the specimen during shipment. Foam containers alone are not suitable for transport of rabies specimens.
  • Completed specimen requisition forms should be placed on top of the lid of the foam container, not inside the shipping container with the specimens where they could become contaminated.

Labeling the Package for Transport


If the package will be transported by USPS

  • Attach a “Biohazard symbol” to the inner (secondary) container.
  • If the specimen weighs more than 8.8 pounds, it must be transported by ground. To transport by USPS, specimens weighing more than 8.8 pounds must be labeled “Surface Transport Only.”
  • The inner container must be capable of withstanding a pressure differential of 0.95 kPa in a temperature range of -40° F to 130° F (unless the outer package is labeled for “Surface Transport Only”).
  • If the package will be transported by air (e.g., UPS, Federal Express) or USPS (and is not labeled for “Surface Transport Only”), an itemized list of contents must be attached to the inner (secondary) container.
  • Attach the following labels to the outside of the package:
    • “Biological Substance, Category B / UN3373” label
    • “Contact” label with the name and telephone number of someone who has knowledge of the package contents
    • Return address label
    • WSLH address label
    • “Surface Transport Only” label  (Use this only if the specimen weighs more than 8.8 pounds and is being sent by USPS.)

Transporting Specimens


NOTE: Cost of transport is the responsibility of the submitter.


Commercial Carriers

  • Arrange transport of specimens for rabies diagnosis so that they are received at the WSLH (2601 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 7904, Madison) within 24 hours.
    • Check with your carrier to determine what service should be used to provide overnight delivery.
    • If shipping on a Friday, confirm that the carrier will deliver on Saturday; specify that Saturday delivery is required so the specimen is not held for Monday delivery.

Personal Transport

  • Specimens must be appropriately packaged to prevent leakage and exposure of anyone handling the specimen, even when delivering the specimens personally.
  • Specimens can be delivered to the WSLH (2601 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 7904, Madison) from 6 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday-Friday, or 6:30 AM – 12:30 PM on Saturday. See map and directions here.
    • Specimens should be delivered via the loading dock door off Vondron Road. On Saturdays, ring the bell at the loading dock door for delivery of specimens.
  • To deliver specimens to the WSLH outside the above hours, please call University of Wisconsin-Madison Police and Security (608-262-2957) who will facilitate delivery to the WSLH specimen storage facility and also call WSLH Customer Service at 800-862-1013 and leave a voicemail informing them that a specimen will be delivered outside the above hours. The box containing the specimen should be clearly labeled as a “Rabies Diagnostic Specimen” and placed in the area designated for rabies specimens.