Bioterrorism and Suspicious Packages
Guidelines for Submission
The decision to test a sample for agents of bioterrorism is made by the police in consultation with the local public health units. All suspicious packages presenting a bioterrorism threat are also treated as legal specimens. Since these materials may become part of a criminal trial, a complete record of the chain of custody is required.
Prior to submission of any sample, contact PHO’s Bioresponse Team (BT).
- Business Hours (8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday to Friday)
- Bioresponse Hotline: 647-792-3378
- Customer Service Centre: 416-235-6556 or toll-free:1-877-604-4567
- After-Hours, Weekends and Holidays
- BT After-Hours Responder: 416-524-0414
- Alternate Duty Officer: 416-605-3113
Ensure collection and packaging complies with the guidelines in Suspicious Packages/Material for the Investigation of Agents of Bioterrorism: Guidelines for Submission.
Each submission must be accompanied by a Public Health Requisition for Submitting Environmental Samples for Laboratory Testing. Please see the Test Requisition for Submitting Environmental Samples Form.
- Suspicious packages are transported to PHO’s laboratory - Toronto by the Law Enforcement Agency or their delegate. The Law Enforcement Agency or delegate maintains chain of custody during transport.
- PHO’s laboratory - Toronto is located at 661 University Ave. Suspicious packages are received through the Shipping and Receiving Dock.
Upon arrival at the shipping and receiving dock:
- Business hours (8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday to Friday)
- Call Customer Service Centre at 416-235-6556/1-877-604-4567 and a BT member will attend to receive the package, examine it to determine that it is properly packaged (see procedure for packaging below) and ensure that a specimen submission requisition form (Test Requisition for Submitting Environmental Samples Form) has been completed.
- The submitter and the BT member will complete and sign the sample submission label and affix it to the back of the specimen submission requisition form.
- The BT member will sign the submitter’s form to acknowledge receipt of the package.
- After-hours, weekends and holidays
- Samples for after-hours testing will be accepted only if they are deemed urgent. Prior approval from PHO must be obtained before the sample is sent for testing.
- PHO will advise on the process of sample delivery at the time of approval for testing.
Protocol for Submitting Environmental Samples for Laboratory Testing
Packaging Material Required
- three zip lock bags per specimen
- duct tape
- permanent marker
- Chain of Custody form
Procedure for Packaging
- Place the suspected environmental material in the zip lock bag and seal completely.
- Place the zip lock-sealed envelope in a second zip lock bag and seal completely.
- Place the double sealed zip lock in a third zip lock bag and seal completely.
- Label the outer zip lock bag: BIOHAZARD.
- Spray outer bag with 1% bleach. Let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping it off.
- Complete the Chain of Custody form and place it around the container with a rubber band.
- Tape test requisition form to the outside bag – Do not use staples.
- A single sample of suspicious material per incident is adequate.
- A minimal amount of material is necessary – no more than a few grams - however, there should be a visible amount of material collected. Avoid submitting other incident-related materials, such as letters or envelopes.
Responsibility for Transport
- Local law enforcement is responsible for arranging for specimen transport.
Sample Submission Label
Attach to the back of the Test Requisition for Submitting Environmental Samples Form.