Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Interim Guidelines March 10, 2004

Biosafety Advisory

Subsequent to the recent Avian Influenza outbreaks in several Asian countries and any additional areas as identified Footnote 1,Footnote 2,Footnote 3, we are providing you with the following interim biosafety advisory regarding the laboratory handling of clinical specimens associated with this strain of influenza.

Precautions for laboratories receiving and processing human clinical specimens and tissue samples from suspicious human Avian Influenza casesFootnote 2:

  • specimens may be processed for packaging and distribution to diagnostic laboratories for further testing in a Containment Level 2 laboratoryFootnote 4,Footnote 5 using the additional operational practices as outlined below
  • diagnostic testing to rule out Avian Influenza may be performed in a Containment Level 2 laboratoryFootnote 4,Footnote 5 using the additional operational practices as outlined below.

Additional operational practices:

  • laboratory workers should wear protective clothing (e.g. protective solid-front gowns, gloves, and N-95 respiratory protection) in accordance with the risk of exposure when handling specimens
  • manipulations that may produce aerosols should be carried out in a certified biological safety cabinet
  • centrifugation of respiratory and tissue specimens should be carried out using sealed centrifuge cups or rotors, both of which are unloaded in a biological safety cabinet
  • all contaminated liquid and solid wastes must be decontaminated prior to disposalFootnote 6, preferably by autoclaving

Precautions for laboratories handling human clinical specimens from confirmed Avian Influenza casesFootnote 2 for isolation and further manipulation of the agent:

  • specimens may be processed for packaging and distribution to laboratories for further testing in a Containment Level 2 laboratoryFootnote 4,Footnote 5 using the additional operational practices as outlined above
  • manipulations involving growth of the agent should be in a Containment Level 3 laboratoryFootnote 4,Footnote 5 using Containment Level 3 operational practicesFootnote 4,Footnote 5
  • Manipulations involving growth of the agent must not be performed in the same laboratory that is simultaneously culturing material that may contain human influenza
  • PCR testing of extracted genetic material may be performed in a Containment Level 2 laboratoryFootnote 4,Footnote 5

Note: For Containment Level 3 facilities manipulating specimens from confirmed Avian Influenza cases, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires, under the authority of the Health of Animals ActFootnote 7, that operational procedures must be reviewed and certified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency prior to work commencing. In addition, all staff or visitors must agree, before entering the laboratory, not to have contact with avian and porcine species for a period of five (5) days.

For information on biosafety precautions for other activities (eg. research and handling animal specimens with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza), contact the Biohazard Containment and Safety Division at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency 613-221-7088.

Transportation of clinical specimens:

  • Packaging, shipping and transport of specimens must, as a minimum, comply with the requirements of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations, Transport CanadaFootnote 7 and the Dangerous Goods Regulations, International Air Transport AssociationFootnote 8. These requirements state:
    • For air shipment, clinical specimens from suspicious and confirmed cases (ie. samples from patients meeting case definition) must be shipped as UN 3373 diagnostic specimens or clinical specimens
    • For air shipment, cultures of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus, must be shipped as UN 2814 Infectious Substance affecting humans (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus)(Risk Group 3).

Further biosafety information may be obtained from the Office of Laboratory Security, Public Health Agency of Canada at 613-957-1779, fax 613-941-0596 or web site at: Biosafety Advisories and Notifications or the Biohazard Containment and Safety Division of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at 613-221-7088, fax 613-228-6129 or web site at: Biohazard Containment and Safety.

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