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March 25, 1988

The Labeling of Specimens as Infectious

Author Affiliations

St Peters (Mo) Hospital

St Peters (Mo) Hospital

JAMA. 1988;259(12):1807. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720120015011

To the Editor.  —I read with concern the recent article by Handsfield et al1 regarding prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus in blood samples sent to the laboratory of their urban teaching hospital in Seattle. I agree that some samples of blood and body fluids sent to such a laboratory are inevitably from patients who have undetected infection with such viruses as HIV and hepatitis B, and I also agree that all specimens should therefore be considered potentially infectious and should be handled with appropriate precautions. However, I strongly disagree with the recommendation that the practice of labeling known infectious specimens should be abandoned.Laboratory workers are entitled to be informed when they are dealing with known hazardous specimens. It is natural that such workers take their greatest care in situations in which increased risk is perceived, although similar care is recommended in all situations.