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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 9, 2011

THE DANGER FROM TRANSMISSION OF INFECTIOUS MATERIALS BY MAIL

JAMA. 2011;305(6):626. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1922

Occasionally complaints are made to the effect that the sending of pathologic and bacteriologic materials through the mails by physicians and others constitutes a dangerous menace to public health. There is no good reason for fear of this kind at the present time. The postal regulations prescribe with great exactness just what materials of the kind now in mind may be sent and how they must be packed in order to be accepted for transmission. Failure to follow instructions is subject to heavy penalties. The packages required certainly appear proof against accidental spilling. The only possible danger will arise from improperly and carelessly packed materials. So far as it is now known, there are no records of definitely established instances of spread of infection through carelessness of this nature. But it should be borne in mind that it is not only a great convenience but in most cases an actual necessity to send material away for examination; in probably the majority of the cases this is done in order that public health may be protected by the application of the results of the examination. It is needless to say that whatever the mode of transmission, all infectious materials must be so packed as to avoid all danger, and that this simple duty is everywhere fully recognized by the conscientious physician.

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