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Viral and Rickettsial Diseases Laboratory

Test Order ​​
Novel/Avian Influenza Virus Detection (human) - PCR​​

Information Category Information Detail
Prior approval is required to ship these samples for testing.

The CDPH Immunization Branch (, (510) 620-3737) must pre-approve of any novel/avian influenza test requests prior to specimens being sent to VRDL for testing. The VRDL will not test unapproved suspect Novel/Avian Influenza specimens. Contact your local public health department for pre-approval information.

Submitters must coordinate deliveries with CDPH before shipping. VRDL will not test any suspect Novel/Avian Influenza specimens that are received without prior coordination and tracking information.​
Important information to provide on Submittal Form
Please provide patient’s animal exposure history, symptoms, date of illness onset, county of residence, name and phone number of the initial testing laboratory, and real-time RT-PCR Ct values on the submittal form.
Submittal Form
Specimens must be accompanied with a hard copy of the completed ​VRDL General Purpose Specimen Submittal Form​​ (PDF) or a form generated in the VRDL Lab Web Portal​.
Methodology (Commercial Test Name or Laboratory Developed Test (LDT)) Real-time RT-PCR (CDC) (Diagnostic)
Reflex Testing Seasonal Influenza A subtyping: A(H1)pdm09 and A(H3)
Novel Influenza: A(H5) and A(H7)
Influenza B typing and Influenza B Lineage Genotyping
Acceptable Specimen Type(s) and Collection Method Human specimens:
For individuals that meet clinical and epidemiologic criteria for influenza A(H5N1) with:

  • ​Respiratory illness: preferably two specimens should be collected
  1. ​​​A nasopharyngeal (NP) swab* (required), and 
  2. A combined nasal swab* (NS) and oropharyngeal (OP) swab* (i.e., two swabs placed into one vial with either viral transport medium or universal transport medium)
Additional respiratory specimens can be submitted if available: nasal aspirates, bronchoalveolar lavage, and tracheal aspirate in sterile collection tube

  • ​​Conjunctivitis: (with or without respiratory symptoms): the following two specimens should be collected
    1. A conjunctival swab*, and
    2. An NP* swab

*Swab specimens: only swabs with a synthetic tip, such as nylon or Dacron and either aluminum or plastic shafts are acceptable for testing at the VRDL. We CANNOT accept cotton swabs with a wooden shaft.​
Please see CDC's Conjunctival Swab Specimen Collection Guide for Avian Influenza A(H5) viruses (PDF)​ for more information regarding conjunctival swab collection.
Minimum Volume Requested​
Place swab specimens** in 2-3 mL of Viral Transport Medium (VTM) or Universal Transport Medium (UTM)

**NP or conjunctival swab specimens; NS and OP swabs should be placed in a single vial with VTM or UTM.​
Transport Medium (if using) Viral Transport Medium or Universal Transport Medium
Specimen Labeling Each specimen tube must be labeled with at least two unique patient identifiers, e.g., patient full name and date of birth.
Storage & Preservation of Specimen / Shipping Conditions
  • Freeze or refrigerate specimens after collection.

Ship refrigerated specimens to VRDL on cold packs. Ship frozen specimens to VRDL on dry ice.

Shipping Instructions
​Work with your local public health department to ensure samples are packaged according to instructions for Biological Substance – Category B (UN 3373) shipment.

Ship specimens overnight (Monday though Thursday) and a hard copy of the completed submittal forms to: 


ATTN: Specimen Receiving

850 Marina Bay Parkway Richmond, CA 94804

Phone: 510-307-8585

For urgent test requests after hours, please contact the VRDL Points of Contact (listed below).

​Turnaround Time
2 Business Days

​Low viral load or co-infections can affect test results. Calcium alginate swabs are unacceptable and cotton swabs with wooden shafts are unacceptable because they can cause false-negative results.

​​Negative results do not preclude the possibility of influenza virus infection.​
​Additional Information
Specimens should be collected as close to illness onset as possible and no longer than 5 days after onset.

​Please visit our ​ CDPH Avian and Novel Influenza Quicksheet (PDF) for more information.​

For questions regarding animal testing please contact the CDPH Veterinary Public Health Section.

CDC resources:
​VRDL Points of Contact

Testing Coordinator: Alice Chen (510) 307-8585 

​Medical and Epidemiology Liaisons: (510) 307-8585 or

​After Hours CDPH Duty Officer: (916) 328-3605

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