All posts by Mike Blakely

Guide for shipping infectious substances: focus on Ebola samples

Guide for Shipping Infectious Substances

For the handling and shipping of infectious substances certain precautions and protocols need to be followed carefully to prevent accidental exposure.  Health organizations have put together best practices for following the United Nations regulations for shipping such controlled substances.  The CDC, WHO, and NIH have made resources available to the public to help govern these processes.  In the following sections we will cover the basics of infectious substances, what resources are available, and how Sonoco ThermoSafe solutions can service these applications.

What is an Infectious Substance?

For the purposes of transport, infectious substances are defined as substances which are known or are reasonably expected to contain pathogens. Pathogens are defined as microorganisms (including bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, parasites, and fungi) and other agents such as prions, which can cause disease in humans or animals. Infectious substances are divided into two categories: Category A and Category B.

Given the current environment, a lot of attention has been placed on shipping Category A substances for diagnosis, treatment, or research.  Category A substances are classified as those where if exposure occurs it is “capable of causing permanent disability, life-threatening, or fatal disease in otherwise healthy humans or animals.”  The UN has produced detailed protocols for shipping Category A materials.  Category A shipments must be labeled with either a UN 2814 or UN2900 designation.

UN 2814: if exposure occurs, causes harm to animals and humans

UN 2900: if exposure occurs, causes harm to animals only

What is required?

In addition to labeling, regulation requires specialized packaging systems which help contain the infectious substances from human exposure.  These systems have several barriers limiting the potential risk of contamination or exposure.  For an example of how Category A substances are shipped in these systems, please click through the presentation below.

Category A image

 How Sonoco ThermoSafe Can Help

Sonoco ThermoSafe has several options available to help ensure the substances being shipped are not at risk for exposure.  Our diagnostic and infectious shipping solutions can be found here.

Sonoco ThermoSafe’s temperature controlled shipping solutions have been used in the fight against the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Sky News’ footage of the Ebola virus shows how medicine and samples are transported by aid groups in West Africa.


A tremendous amount of effort has been placed in eradicating the disease in certain areas of the world.  With no licensed vaccine available, significant investment from different organizations have been placed in the research and development of life-saving vaccines.  In order to aid the fast-tracking of preventable and treatable medicines, our ISCLabs® design and testing services are available to provide safe and efficient packaging solutions for vaccine and diagnostic sample shipments.