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Submitting Influenza Specimens

Submitting Influenza Specimens to OSPHL

Specimens should be collected within 3 days of clinical onset and not later than 7 days after onset from patients.

Acceptable specimens include the following:

  • Nasopharyngeal swabs- specimen of choice
  • Nasal swabs
  • Throat swabs
  • Combination nasopharyngeal and throat swabs (2 swabs in one vial)
  • Nasal aspirates
  • Nasal washes
  • Bronchoalveolar lavages
  • Bronchial washes
  • Tracheal aspirates
  • Sputum
  • Lung tissue
  • Cell culture isolates

Swab specimens should be collected using swabs made of Dacron polyester tips or flocked swabs on a plastic shaft (wooden shafts are not acceptable). These swabs are supplied in the State Virus Isolation Collection Kit. Swab specimens must be inserted into viral transport media and refrigerated after collection and shipped at 2-8°C. Do not submit a dry swab for testing as this could result in an unsatisfactory status. Use a cold pack for shipping to maintain refrigerated temperature during transit. If shipping of the specimen cannot occur within 2 -3 days from date of collection, freeze the specimen, preferably at -70°C, and ship on dry ice as soon as possible. Be sure to package specimens properly for transport.

Complete all required fields on the Virology test request form (Form 42). Both the test request form and the specimen container label must be labeled with the patient name or unique identifier and/or other relevant information or the sample will not be tested. Make sure to mark the “other” test box and write in “Influenza”. If it’s an official outbreak, remember to indicate the outbreak number in the "Outbreak Number" box. Health care providers must work with local health departments to submit Form 42 and facilitate shipping. Prior approval for testing may be required. Visit the OSPHL website ( for additional information and contact your local health department for information.

Unacceptable specimens include:

  • Swabs with calcium alginate, cotton tips, or wooden shafts
  • Specimens not refrigerated
  • Specimens with insufficient volume (less than 0.8 mL)
  • Specimens with incomplete/incorrect labeling or documentation (request form)
  • Specimens that have dried out
  • Specimens collected more than 14 days after onset

OSPHL Contact Information

Oregon State Public Health Laboratory
Virology/Immunology Section
P.O. Box 235
Portland, OR 97207-0275

For Additional Information: 503-693-4100